Category Archives: Geeky stuff

Visualizing Good Writing

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I once knew an architecture student who was assigned a project where she was to visually represent a movie with an architectural model. The resulting sculptures were fascinating to say the least. I began to wonder if movies that I liked would look similar in this static form of 3D rendering. Would movies I didn’t like look different?

example of architectural model of film structure

architectural model of “Twin Peaks” by Beth Warner, circa 1996

For example, two movies I love that (on outward glance) don’t appear to have that much in common are Star Wars (Ep 4: A New Hope) and The Princess Bride. However, I don’t like Star Wars (Ep 1: The Phantom Menace). Would an this kind of analysis and construction of a three dimensional, static, architectural model actually show that, despite the similarities in name, Star Wars/A New Hope actually has more in common with the Princess Bride than it does with Star Wars/Phantom Menace?

Indeed! If you look at the structure of Phantom Menace, strictly from a time/scene standpoint, for example, clearly the pod-racer scene takes up more than one third of the total time of the movie. In our architectural model, this might look like one gigantic room, overwhelmingly unbalancing the overall aesthetic appeal of the structure.

Would the models of The Princess Bride and A New Hope appear more balanced? What other similarities would exist in there visualized structures? What other ways are there to visually represent the abstract concept of a story through a three dimensional architectural model? Is it possible to identify well-constructed movies by looking only at the models produced, without actually seeing the movie? Does this hold true for good writing as well as film making?

As writers, how can we apply this concept to our work?

Conceptually visualize your work as a three dimensional space. Sketch it out on the back of a napkin, if that helps you. By looking at it in another way, it can help keep you focused on always creating balanced, engaging writing that is a pleasure for your audience.

Writing Tip: Autoanonyms

Words that can take two (or more) opposite meanings are known as autoanonyms. (They are also known as contranyms, antilogies, and Janus words.) If there is another word that is just as descriptive but only has one meaning, using that would be a better choice. After all, we rarely want to create confusion when we write.
Autoanonym Examples
Fast – moving quickly or fixed firmly in place
Overlook – watch over carefully or fail to notice
Aught – anything or nothing
Trim – to reduce or to add to; ornament
As we’ve all heard or even learned the hard way, spell check is a great tool, but it can’t catch everything. These tricky little –nyms often sneak past your standard spell check. The English language has many tiny jewels that can trip up even the most proficient writer.

Writing Tip: Keep Your Nots Together


You might be concerned about your reader missing the word not because it wraps to the next line of text. You can keep the word not on the same line by using a “nonbreaking space” character before not. To type a “nonbreaking space” character in Microsoft Word, hold down Shift + Ctrl as you press the space bar. This character will make sure that the preceding word and the word not stay together.

Star Trek – spoilers!

I hate those ear slugs. When I was a kid, they gave me nightmares for weeks. Ask my mom; I slept with cotton balls in my ears.

But I loved this movie! JJ did himself a big favor setting this new Trek universe the way he did. Without saying too much, I will say that time travel is involved (allowing for the much anticipated Nimoy appearance for which we’ve all been clamoring) and so basically, all bets are off. To satiate my desire for big explosions in space and budget-blowing special effects – I’ll forgive you your trespasses.

However, there are 2 things I will not forgive: 1) the Enterprise crew would never laugh at a nemisis in his moment of defeat – that’s just bad form; not to mention you Starfleet grads should really know enough gravitational physics to know when its time to RUN AWAY! 2) WTF is “red” matter anyway???

PS My favorite part about reinventing this series is the Lucas-esque tone that’s been brought to Trek. Someone’s favorite movie is Empire Strikes Back… hyperdrive fails, Hoth, and more – oh my! Don’t worry, JJ, me too. :)