Brand is the thread that runs through everything we write. It gives rise to voice, that quality that makes our writing uniquely ours.
Brand is like theatrical lighting. It adds colors and textures that enhance our readers’ emotional experience, but most of our readers aren’t aware of how it’s being used; they only notice the effects.
Brands are our private stakes. They’re at the heart of what we mean when we say we write the kind of story we’d like to read.
One of the things I love about brands is that discovering them is so much fun. A brand is where cliches, pop culture, art, and music come together. It usually takes about half a day to put a brand together, so make a play date with yourself to do this.
Start by writing down the answers to these questions. Yes, really write them down, don’t just think the answers.
- What photographs and images appeal to you? Why?
- What articles?
- What movies and television shows?
- What Internet sites, videos, and blogs?
- What music, especially pop songs?
- What cliches, even though you know they are cliches and would never use them in writing?
- What quotes?
- Who are your heroes and heroines?
As you move down that list of questions, revisit some of your favorite things. Listen to the music. Find clip art and assemble an electronic collage. You can do this non-electronically with magazines, scissors, glue etc, though I find the Internet so much neater and there aren’t all of those scraps of magazine pages to recycle afterwards.
Here’s a collage I made when I was recently updating my brand. The only image in here that I own copyright to is the Mexican mask. If you own the copyright to one of these other photos, and object to having it here, please let me know, and I will remove it.
Because I have a military background, it was inevitable that the military would show up in my collage, like the Doonsbury cartoon; Frances Turley, the Gold Star Mother with the flag; the plaque on a street in London; and General Anne Dunwoody, the first woman to receive a 4-star rank. There are kid images, too, because I’ve never outgrown being a kid: a colorful paper mache mask; Big Bird and his teddy, Radar (named after Radar O’Reilly); the boy and the chickadee; and the generous bunny sharing her carrot. Train wreck ballads fascinate me. So do old things, like that marvellous wood-burning stove, which I plan to saddle a character with in a future book.
The rest of the images are strong women: two gorgeously-dressed women from the Advanced Style blog, where I get daily inspiration; Rosa Parks, who refused to move to the back of the bus; the inimitable British actress Dame Margaret Smith; Ida Arbeit, who still teaches dance at 99; firefighter Andre Peterson; and Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya, the first woman to be elected as a bishop of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.
Looking at this collage, I came to the conclusion that a lot of my brand revolves around strong women. The further I went through the list, the more this was confirmed.
After you do all of the questions, massage what you’ve learned about what attracts you into a brand statement.This should be two to three sentences, written in present tense and active voice. Under those sentences write three to five key statements. Use cliches or quotes, if you wish.
My Brand and Key Points
Strong women enjoy adventure, but everything comes at a price. The past overtakes everyone, but it doesn’t have to overwhelm everyone. Transformation comes through courage, strength, and honorable relationships; healing comes through reflection and honesty.
- There’s strength in adventure and adventure in strength. (my own wording)
- To those who fight for it, life has a flavor that the protected never know. (something Special Forces said, back in the day)
- All combat takes place at night, in the rain, at the junction of four map segments. (Conrad Breen, Wag the Dog)
- When the ship lifts, all debts are paid. (Robert A. Heinlein, Notebooks of Lazarus Long )
Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected. ~William Plomer (1903 – 1973), South African and British novelist, poet, and literary editor
Remember how characters should have both public and private stakes? So should writers. Brands are our private stakes; platforms are our public stakes, the way we connect to non writers. I hope you’ll come back next Tuesday for a discussion of platforms.
On Thursday, I’ll look at some aspect of the writer’s life. Haven’t decided what yet.