Using Color Symbols in Writing

Originally this blog post published July 2016 on the Writers Ink Books website.  As WIS takes a vacation, we repeat three of the WIB blogs in the summer of 2016.  After all, reruns are totally watchable again.

You Can Do Magic:  Paint with Colors

Artists paint with words;  writers paint with images.  The first images are colors.

At the same time that symbolic numbers were developing in primitive cultures, ancient women and men were looking around and associating meaning to the colors they saw in nature and our bodies.

In spring, everything greened up to grow, so green came to represent life and growth.  They bled when they were cut while working or hunting;  red represents what we must sacrifice in order to achieve our goals.

November 29, 2016, blog by Robin Daly
A Color Wheel with images from Nature, found at

Here’s an interesting side trip:  one primitive culture only had 3 color names.  Three!  We have more synonyms than that for all our colors. (red, cardinal, persimmon, crimson, scarlet, ruby, garnet, cherry, carmine, wine, vermilion, florid, ruddy, maroon, brick, and more!)  The Piraha of the Amazon have no words for numbers, and their colors are white (light-time), black (night-time), and red (blood).

Brent Berlin and Paul Kay named 11 basic color categories in their famous 1969 study:

white          black          red           green         yellow       blue

brown         purple        pink        orange       gray.

Back on the main road, we’re after the symbolic meanings associated with colors.  Like the numbers, some will have both positive and negative connotations.

Here’s what I’ve gathered:

The Primaries in Nature
  • Red = blood, sacrifice, the wounds inflicted by trials.
  • Blue = the heavens, truth (true blue).  The sky where the gods oversaw man’s petty achievements was blue;  the heavens are the realm of the gods.  Since gods are a constant eternal form that never change (whereas Earth is all about change, as Heraclitus succinctly put it), truth is associated with a universal constant (whereas facts–the earth is flat–constantly change).  Thus, blue = eternity.
  • Yellow = warning, sometimes the radiance of the sun = warmth.  Contrarily, cowardice (a yellow streak).
  • Green = life, growth, spring, morning, youth.  In a negative connotation, jealousy (green-eyed glare).
  • Black = death, winter, night, the dark of trouble and of ignorance, absence (with a negative connotation).  In modern times, artists create black by adding all the colors, so modern writers have begun to use black as a symbol for “all things added in”, a sort of chaotic plenty.
  • White = winter, light / knowledge, purity / unstained innocence, “pearl”, absence (with a positive connotation).  Again, modern artists leave out all color to have white on their palette, so modern writers have begun to alter the color to create an idea of the vacuum, a sucking hole that deprives of everything.
  • Grey = sorrow, rain / mist.
  • Orange = summer, noon, the ripening to harvest, adult.
  • Brown = autumn, afternoon, maturity, and the color of dried blood > old wounds, old scars, a veteran.
Secondaries, Not so Common in Nature
  • Purple = royalty.  Kings rule by the red Blood Right (either they inherited the crown or won it on the battlefield) + the blue Divine Right (the gods intervened to ensure their victory).
  • Silver = a “mirror” color (mirror backs are “silvered” to reflect).  Mirrors reveal truth;  silver withstands magic.  In the mythic trope, vampires cannot see themselves in mirrors because they are not “true-ly” alive.  Yes, I know modern writers decided not to work with the mythic trope because it didn’t “fit” their world.  Sigh.
  • Gold = “tested” purity.  However, all that glitters is not gold.  It is richness and wealth >> but pure gold can be shaped by the hands, so it has a softness.  Thus, in the King Arthur myths, Arthur is associated from birth with gold because he and his dream will be corrupted.

Symbolic Colors in Art

King Arthur retrieves Excalibur, by N C Wyeth.

Look at the N.C. Wyeth painting of King Arthur.  The fabled hero is receiving Excalibur and its miraculous sheath from the Lady in the Lake.

  • His blue cloak is lined with red and trimmed with gold.
  • Gold appoints his saintly-colored mail and the boat.
  • See the three white swans flying away?
  • And the grey mist?
  • White-bearded Merlin wears a dark cloak:  is that deep blue or black?
  • And the mirror-like quality of the lake itself as the arm of the Faery Queen from an eternal existence offers the magical sword?  Have you ever known lake water to be so mirror-still?  Small pools, yes.  Lakes?  No.

Wyeth has painted the symbols that reveal the deeper elements of the Arthurian legend.

As symbols enrich Wyeth’s painting, so will they enrich your writing.  Play with them as Wyeth has done.

Symbolic Colors in Literature

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby, a character enters a room with a blood-red floor and a ceiling that is a bridal-cake confection of white plasterwork.  From that early chapter, the reader should know that Daisy and her husband and their wider family have the appearance of beauty and innocence while they have walked on the blood of others to get where they are.  They are corrupted, and all the remaining symbolic colors in the novel prove that over and over.

Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” occurs in a yellow wood:  Caution!  he says.  Don’t lie to yourself, as many teachers have deceived their students into reading this poem and thinking the road they take matters.  Frost says it doesn’t and that we lie when we tell ourselves the road we take is different:  he tells us three times that the “just as fair” roads are “worn . . . about the same” as they “equally lay”.  It’s what we do on those roads that matter, not the choice of the road.

Unless you’re Stephen Crane’s “Wayfarer” who discovers the thick weeds on the roads are actually knife-blades.

Paint with Colors.

Your readers will thank you.

~~ M A Lee

Using Number Symbols in Writing

Originally this blog post published July 2016 on the Writers Ink Books website.  WIS reruns it because, after all, reruns are totally watchable.
For those looking for the Grammar Monster blog series, look for the chart link at the end of the blog.  In that chart you will find the important background lessons that students need before the Grammar Monster comes out of the cave.

You Can Do Magic:  Paint with Numbers

In the last blog, “Let’s Play” (in 2016, remember, on the WIB website, not this one), I mentioned that working in threes is the preferred number for repetition.  Three is that mysterious number in the realm of symbols, and it has great influence on the audience.

3’s are significant, whether spoken or written or visual.  Most will “hear” the first mention of an idea but think nothing of it.  A second mention sounds like coincidence.  The third mention is magic for the readers and audience.

A good comic will set up a joke with an unusual phrase, cycle back to that phrase in a later joke–just in passing, then hit that unusual phrase for the clincher of a closing joke.   Expectation has been created with the second mention and fulfilled with the third.  The humor then has a greater effect on the audience.

Ron White is the master of this extended use of threes. [Don’t click if you don’t like curse words. ;)] Listen for the third different use of “tater”.

So, that’s the effect of the 3 in repetition.  What about the other numbers?

Well, numbers are important in the world of literature (and religion, both so closely tied together in their origins that their devices [tropes] take on mythic gravitas.  Wow, that was a side excursion and a half).

The symbolic meaning of numbers (and colors–coming in the next blog) solidified in primitive cultures.  We can see the influence of the natural world and our own bodies in their development into virtually universal meanings.  Many numbers have both positive and negative connotations.

So, here are the meanings I have gleaned:

First Hand
  • 1 = the Self, of course.  Solitary / lonely  (positive / negative).  Independence, self-reliance.  Rank, descending or ascending (I’m number 1!  or the starting [lowest] point).

    the Three Norns by HLM: the Crone, the Matron, the Maiden or Past / Present / Future
  • 2 = companionship, love.  Deception > two-faced.
  • 3 = mystery > e.g., the Moirae, the three Fates of ancient Greece; the three Erinyes ( the Furies who are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone); the three Norns; the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; past / present / future;  Plato’s tripartite being: mind / body / soul.
  • 4 = the number representing Earth > e.g., north / south / east / west; the basic elements of earth / air / water / fire; and proteins / carbs / lipids / acids; the luck of a four-leaf clover; the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the four mathematical operations; the four Beatles.
  • 5 = 1/2 of 10 and thus halfway to completion; the limits of aspiration.  The musical staff is on five lines;  it takes both treble and bass staffs to create full harmony.  The five Sikh symbols.  The pentagram.
Second Hand
  • 6 = doubled mystery > secrecy, magic
  • 7 = perfection, absolute.
  • 8 = rebirth (one more than perfection > starting over), renewal OR as 8 is between 5 and 10, on the road to completion.
  • 9 = 3 + 3 + 3 = intensified mystery.
  • 10 = completion, fulfillment.
Three Extras
  • 11 = transition, thresholds, the liminal space. Over time, 11 became associated with death, which is the greatest of thresholds to cross.  BTW, literature pre-supposes that man has an existence after death, whatever form that existence might take; so it’s this existence, crossing the threshold, and the after-existence.  In literature, death is not a stoppage–unless it’s modern literature.  Oh, well.
  • 12 = man’s relationship to the Divine, in whatever form the Divine takes > 12 Tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles of Christ, 12 Signs of the Greek Zodiac, 12 cycles of the Chinese Years, 12 chief gods of Olympus, and more.
  • 13 = considered unlucky because man steps beyond his relationship with the Divine to pursue his own path, and challenging the gods [as Tantalus discovered] is never wise.  Gradually, it became associated with the occult.

How do you work with symbolic numbers in writing poetry and fiction and non-fiction?

Using symbols can add surprise and depth:

  • Instead of a Council of 5 have a Council of 4, representing the four pillars of earth.
  • Instead of four traps, have 6.
  • For a protagonist who never achieves his goal (how sad), have the number 5 constantly pop up:  a meeting at 5 o’clock, 5 friends who give him advice he never takes, the missed train on Platform 5, the fifth missed message from his boss, the 5th time he forgot his anniversary on May 5.
  • Repeat an image three times.  Repeat using synonyms or other variations of a concept six or nine or twelve times.
  • We all see lists of seven or ten.  Be different:  create lists of eight.
  • Categorize into four major areas, each with three subsets (a hidden seven).

When it’s time to flesh out the details of your outlined work, think through the numbers and see if they can magically assist you.

~~M A Lee

Click this link for the Grammar Monsters Opening Lessons Chart.

Grammar Monster: Introduction

We have to do hard things in life.

Especially in places like school or at completely new jobs, we find ourselves introduced to a lot of hard things.  So many new things are thrown at us that we want to throw some of them back.

We find it extremely difficult to see the reason we have to plow through all of the ticky little details involved with that hard thing.

And we look and pray and hope and wish for the end of it.

Grammar is one of those hard things that we encounter in school.

It is necessary.

One mark by which we all are judged, whether we are speaking or writing, is our grammar.  Make one mistake, and people automatically assume that we’re ignorant.  Or that we didn’t learn it.  Worst of all, they think we can’t learn it.

Those people judge our level of intelligence as well as the credibility of what we are saying.  It’s not right, but it happens.

Quite frankly, credibility–the believability that others accord to our statements, our opinions, our standing in the community, our businesses, and so much more–is all we stand on.

Each small nick in credibility costs us.  Those small increments build over time until the statue of “us” falls.

What is the point of grammar?

What we call “grammar” is actually divided into three disparate realms:  grammar (the way words work together to form complete thoughts), usage (the way words are used), and mechanics (the punctuation coding that helps us read groups of sentences).

We call it GUM:  grammar, usage, mechanics.

Use the wrong “their/they’re/there”, and people think you weren’t educated.  Slip the wrong verb form in the wrong place (“have tooken”), and people cringe.  Plop an apostrophe where it doesn’t belong, and opinions go downhill.

We say “grammar”, but we actually are talking about communication.

Whether spoken or written, we are communicating.

You may have heard of the “7 38 55 Rule of Communication”  or that verbal communication (speaking or writing) is only 10% or 20% of all our communication.  That’s not quite right: This Psychology Today article clears it up.

What is right–and non-quantifiable–is that we judge the speakers and writers (whether casual or informative) based on how they use the language.  GUM guides that judgment.  No errors, and we continue blithely along with that person.  Lots of errors, and those little nicks in their credibility start being applied.

What would happen to your belief in my ability to understand grammar if I had an error in this writing?  Down, down, down it would go, and nothing I wrote afterwards would have any effect.

It doesn’t matter if I tell you that no one is absolutely 100% perfect.  That mistake sits there, glaring at you, glaring at me, glaring at everyone.

The nick happened.  We can’t move on from there.

You say, “The computer will find the errors for me.”

Maybe.  It can’t now.  It may never be able to do so.  Grammar rules, especially in English, dependent on what are called fluid factors.  To encode all those fluid factors would create a massive computer program.

Take this simple spelling rule:  I before E except after C or as sounded as A as in neighbor and weigh, and weird is just weird.  This one rule has four fluid factors.

Think of all the unusual forms of sentences where the subject does not occur first.  The first sentence of this very paragraph has an understood subject.  We also have modifiers that come first.  Questions throw the subject out of position.  Sentences are sometimes inverted.  That’s four more fluid factors.

Now add in all the words of the English language, which is twice as large as any other language in the world.

Do you see the problem?

Students in my dual enrollment college composition courses tried to defeat the monster that grammar can be by using an online grammar checker for essays.   This is a much more sophisticated program than the simple grammar/spelling checker in word processing programs.

Word processing software doesn’t find every error.  However, surely something online can find every error?  Sorry.  Not possible.  Not yet.

The students used the online grammar checker because they didn’t want to learn how to avoid the Type I errors.  More than three Type I errors would fail an essay (not my rule but the rule of the college).  Invariably, more than a handful of Type I errors would be missed by that online grammar checker, and they would fail the essay.

Maybe your grandchildren won’t have to learn grammar–but I doubt it.  English has too many variables.


Misktakes do happen, don’t they? 😉 (That was deliberate, BTW.)

I do understand a lot about grammar, much more than the average English teacher, but I will add that I don’t understand everything.

What I do know and how I know it, these things I will share with you.

So, here are the Grammar Monster blogs, provided for anyone wanting more information about GUM and specifically as Home School Helps.

Starting on August 8 will be the first Grammar Monster blog.  Enjoy.

(Grammar can be enjoyable.  Truly.)

Think Pro: 5 + 5 Essentials for Writers

Think Like a Pro:  New Advent for Writers

Advice for the Week:  Looking for the Essentials?  Don’t Re-Invent the Wheel.  Learn from those who have gone before.

Who’s gone before?  Aristotle.  An ancient geeky Greek philosopher.  Aristotle rocks for writers struggling with character.

This week we start looking at 5 + 5 Essentials for Characters that the ancient Greek Aristotle first offered.


WIS: Manuscript Guidance

7 Common Elements of a Book Manuscript

Do you need a little manuscript guidance for electronic publication?  Here are two lists you need to use as a checklist.

1. You know you need a title.  Did you know you also need a Boilerplate?

The boilerplate is a unit of writing to be re-used over and over without change.  You will find it on the back side of the title page in any printed book and on the page following the title in any electronic book.

A boilerplate gives copyright information as well as any other publication information.  Who controls your copyright?  Who can reproduce this work–if anyone at all–with permission from you?  While this statement is such standard procedure, you probably have never noticed it.  Use any book to determine what you need to have.

2. Beneath the boilerplate you should have a disclaimer:  “All characters in this book are fictitious. . . .”

This protective statement lets people know you used your imagination.  While your inciting situation might be “ripped from the headlines”, the book itself is the work of your brain, not a dry statement of the facts.

3. Acknowledgement / Dedication:  Did someone give you help?  Proofreader?  Cover designer? Or even just watched the babies so you could write?  Thank them.  

As William Shakespeare said, “So long as men can breathe and eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”  Your dedication gives them life as long as your acknowledgement page is available.

4. Other Books by You:  This list is shameless self-promotion.  Remember, always vote for yourself.

In a printed book this list occurs before the title page.  In electronic, it is best after the title page or (even better) at the end of the manuscript.

Many indie writers also run promotions for their other books by providing blurbs (abbreviated summaries).

5. Table of Contents

In any good word software, you can locate the table of contents in the references toolbar.  Really great software allows the TOC to be hyperlinked.  Readers can click the TOC to go anywhere in your book.

Yes, I myself once thought the TOC a waste of time.  With electronic publishing and hyperlink ability, I have been proven wrong.  Thanks to all the people who pointed it out.

6. Chapter Headings and Page Breaks

Use headings in your home toolbar to set up your chapter headings.  The TOC will pick up on the common headings to create itself.

Page breaks are another matter.  You don’t want these in the TOC.  Devise a method to show the switch of scene or character viewpoint within a chapter.  A variety of symbols abound;  whichever you select, be uniform.

7. A Book of your book :: What?

A Book of your book is a Master Book.  In it you keep all of your background work:  character information, plot guides, special information, maps, images, etc.

This Master Book will guide you whenever you decide to return to your manuscript.  Deciding to write a sequel?  The Master Book should have everything you need.

Much of the information in the Master Book will never make it into your book.  That’s as it should be.  We want to avoid info-dump.


Simple Procedure for Preparing a Manuscript to be Published on Kindle

Go for 10!

1.Read the article above entitled “7 Common Elements of a Book Manuscript”, and make sure your MS has these.

2. Use the most common 10 fonts:  Times New Roman, Arial, Baskerville, Courier, Georgia, Helvetica, Lucida Sans, Palatino, Trebuchet, and Verdana.

We all have our favorite fonts.  Some of these (Courier) are downright ugly.  While you may prefer a different font, these 10 create no problems across multiple platforms when reading on a narrow or small screen.

3.Avoid fancy & charming glyphs and special images.

Even the smallest image adds to the size of the file you will upload.  Amazon KDP has special content that you can read which will explain this in more detail.

A few–such as those for chapter headings–do add grace to the MS.  Be certain that their format is acceptable.

If you are desperate to add special touches, consult a book designer who will understand not only the acceptable types of image files but also how large such files can be–as well as how image files can disrupt the flow of your words.

4. Use Page Break for any new section.

Page Break to reach the TOC.  Page Break to reach Chapter 1.  And Page Break to reach Chapter 2.  etc.

Otherwise, let the text flow on by itself.

5.  And let the text flow on by itself.

Don’t use “enter” when you reach the end of a line on your computer screen.  Only hit “enter” on the keyboard when you want a new paragraph.  Your software will default to have the next paragraph indent itself:  let it.

6. Turn off these three things in the “Paragraph Settings”:

  •  Check the box that says “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same type”.  You only have spaces between paragraphs in business documents. Yes, I know your software automatically defaults to this.  Your software, however, was developed for business, not for writers in the entertainment industry.
  •  At the top of that pop-up window, select “Line and Page Breaks”.  Also on that screen, UNcheck “widow/orphan control” and “keep with next”.  These two UNchecks will prevent big gaps at the bottom of some of your pages.

7. Two spaces after a period or one?

This simple question still causes controversy.  Pick which way you want, and stick with it.

The use of two spaces does create a larger gap between sentences.  When reading on a narrow / small screen, this can look awkward.  Most writers have gone to one space between sentences.

However, have you noticed that when you text or email, if you double-space, the period automatically inserts itself?  Two spaces may be coming back.

8. Using Grammar / Spell Check is not enough.  Print out and proofread your manuscript.

And don’t read from the screen.

As sophisticated as current software is, it is still not great.  Believe it or not, you will find more errors on a sheet of paper than you will on a computer screen.

If you don’t feel up to the task, hire a proofreader. (Shameless promotion :: Writers’ Ink has a proofreading service.)  Whatever you do, don’t let a MS out there with “vial” when you mean “vile”.  Please.  I’m serious. It’s a huge turn-off to your reader.

9. Find out your Readability Statistics and Passive Sentence Percentages.

Go to File > Options > Proofing and check the box that says “Readability Statistics”.  After you run a grammar / spell check (and yes, I would still do this.  The machine does catch some things.),  a window will pop up that will tell you the MS’s reading level and number of passive sentences.

Most readers are comfortable at a 7th to 9th grade reading level.  The majority of American newspapers were once geared to a 6th grade reading level.  That’s not a bad thing.  You want to reach as many people as possible.  Don’t impress your reader with BIG words;  impress them with your IDEAS.

Passive sentences are to be avoided.  Try to keep them below 15%.

10. Save your eyes.

They’re the windows to your future as a writer.

You are working an arms-length between eyes and screen, right?

Get amber-tinted glasses or turn on “Night Shade”;  save the cones and rods in your eyes.  Plenty of evidence has emerged that blue-tinted light (especially at night) not only disrupts sleep but causes problems for your eyes’ functioning.  The amber helps to prevent that blurring which represents damage from over-strain.

And use the magnification in your software.  Ramp the size of the text on screen up as far as you need to see without strain.

Finally, take breaks from staring at the screen.  15 minutes for every 45.  If you can’t find anything to do during that time, take a walk.  Not only your eyes but also your tush will thank you.


WIS: Prices for Proofing & Editing


Proofreading and Editing Services

While no one can guarantee to catch 100% of errors, Writers’ Ink has over 35 years of experience in catching mistakes in manuscripts.  Our proofreading and editing services will not only find errors you may not have seen but also plot holes and character discrepancies.

Provide us with a copy of your MS*.  Priced depending on the length, we will proofread and correct mistakes in spelling, usage, and most punctuation.  (Since some punctuation is a matter of style or a reading assistance, we will not remove these marks of punctuation.)

Proofreading finds simple errors in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, usage, and simple grammar errors.  We understand that dialogue may not be grammatically  correct.

  • Proofreading is only done for manuscripts that are considered complete.
  • If, while proofreading, we discover content editing problems, we will notify you and re-negotiate.
  • If you wish us to continue with Content Editing, that cost will be applied.  Our task will convert to content editor as opposed to proofreader.   Content errors will need to be revised prior to the completion of proofreading.

Content Editing looks for plot holes, character discrepancies, and illogical problems (a character on the East Coast who at 7 a.m. calls someone on the West Coast who is eating breakfast on their sunny patio.  This is not possible.  The West Coast is four hours behind the East Coast.  That would be 3 a.m. their time.  Writers Ink has seen this problem not picked up by other Content Editors.)

Developmental Editing:  for poetry and Non-Fiction only.  Even though we are helping you “develop” your writing, we do not ask for credit on the title page.  You are the writer;  we are looking for ways to improve the ideas you are communicating.

  • In a poetry series, developmental editing will look for thematic arcs and suggest line structure possibilities.  We will note change words although we may suggest such changes.  We will consider the sequence of poems in a series.  We have over 35 years of analyzing, explicating, and teaching poetry by the masters.  We understand that poetry is a special art form.
  • In Non-Fiction,  logical sequence and explanation & elaboration on themes, topics, and subjects will be considered.  We have over 40 years writing nonfiction as well as teaching the nonfiction form to students.

Cost of Proofreading

$250.00 for the first 100 pages (standard font, approximately 250-285 words per page, 1-inch margins all around)

$50.00 for each additional 50 pages

For a manuscript of more than 500 pages, please contact us with the completed length for a different price.

Cost of Content (Line) Editing

$300.00 for the first 100 pages

$75.00 for each additional 50 pages

Cost of Developmental Editing for Poetry

$300.00 for 100 pages

$100.00 for each additional 50 pages


*We do not work in the genres of horror, psychological thrillers, and erotica or soft porn.

WIS: Pricing for Trailers and Clips

Book Trailers and Corporate Clips

What attracts the reader’s eye?  The image, of course, and wise writers look to graphic artists for guidance with the book cover.  Yet how do we draw people to look at the cover in the first place?  Have you considered a book trailer?

You can write tens of thousands of words for a manuscript, but you can’t write a short script for a trailer that will be 30 seconds to a minute long.  Or you’re too busy with your customers and clients to spend the hours necessary to develop a short clip for your website or Facebook page.

Contract with us. 

For books, all you need to do is provide a synopsis / blurb and a few elements on a script questionnaire.  For products or services, we will drop by, tour your business, ask a few questions, then head off:  Once we have the background information we need, your part of the job is over.

Writers Ink will work in three stages:

First is Stage 1: our preliminary script based on the questionnaire / interview and your provided information.  If you want to make suggestions or head us in a different direction, that’s workable.  If you want us to go in a different direction, that’s do-able although we may need more information.  We will happily cycle back through Stage 1 with you.

Stage 2: We will generate a completed MP4 film file using MS PowerPoint, which we will upload to our YouTube for website.  Once it’s up, you can hyperlink to it or download it to your own drive, to a cloud drive, to Facebook, and to your website.  We advise having the original in two separate locations.  Want it on a flashdrive?  $15.00 more (Sorry.  Cost of flashdrive.)

Stage 3:  Sound makes trailers wonderful.  Once you approve the basic MP4 film file, we will select sound files that work with the tone of your novel or atmosphere of your product or service.  If you wish to choose your file from audiojungle or Envato Market, you will need to provide us with the location information.  Once the file is chosen, we will add the sound file to the MP4 draft.

Cost of Services

  • Deposit before Stage 1 of the Book Trailer :: $100.00  This deposit will be applied to the total cost.  If you want to stop at this point, our generated script becomes your property.
  • 2nd Stage Development of the Trailer / Clip :: MP4 without Sound $215.00 (minus the deposit, the amount is $115.00 more.)
  • 3rd Stage Addition of Sound to the MP4 film file :: $50.00 (location and cost of the sound file included) or $35.00 plus the cost of the sound* file that you located** on audiojungle PLUS the cost of insertion and second manipulation of the MP4 file to work with the sound file).

For all three stages of work, you are paying $265.00.  This includes the approved script, development of the film file, and insertion of the sound file, all into an easily accessible form.  You are paying for our expertise and our time, and we will provide you a quality product that you can proudly use on your social media platforms.

If you want us to upload the trailer / clip to your website and to your Facebook page, we will be happy to do so for an additional fee.

*Sound files should be located on audiojungle or on Envato Market.  If you have licensed copyright access to another sound file of reasonable length, we will try to work with you.
**If you locate the sound file and the cost of that sound file is more than $25.00, the additional cost will be applied to your bill.

WIS: Sins & Virtues of Trailers & Clips

Book Trailers & Corporate Clips

What are they?  Trailers & Clips are small marketing videos that we can post on Facebook and on our internet sites for people to enjoy.

Videos and clips are a benefit to static websites because people naturally watch what “moves.”  Short videos on Facebook always capture attention, especially when they are well-done.

 What can I say?  I am very intrigued by well-done short videos.  I especially enjoy the ones that present books.  I slow down in my internet surfing and on Facebook to watch the shorter advertising for certain products and services.

Yet when things with such advertising go wrong, they go very, very wrong.  It’s as if the short form exaggerates the problem rather than flashes past it.

How do we avoid the sins of the worst advertising?  We have to understand the virtues of the best advertising.


Sin 1] the trailer or clip that goes too long.

Statistics claim that most people have a 15-30 second attention span.  We can stretch this to 45 seconds.

This statistic is true for me.  My attention span for book trailers, something that intrigues me, lasts about 35-45 seconds.  For the ones that aren’t interesting, I turn off somewhere around 20 seconds.  TV commercials affect me in the same manner.

When I started researching book trailers, I found several interesting ones–but the ones that ran a minute and more totally lost me.  Totally.  Beautiful graphics, enchanting sound, intriguing words–but I clicked out before those trailers where halfway through.

Melissa Marr has a lovely one for Wicked Lovely by COS Productions.  You can see it here:

Wicked Lovely trailer  (You may have to watch an ad prior to viewing.  Sorry.)

Marr’s trailer seems to be PERFECT.  It runs about 40 seconds.

Sin 2] the NARRATED book trailer.

Please don’t.  Voice is such a powerful element when it’s done correctly.  Few people do it correctly.  It requires pauses and intonation.  And the voice itself must be attractive.  Unfortunately, most narration for short advertising comes across as either flat or artificial.

Especially do NOT narrate if you are reading the text on the screen.  Please ~~ don’t.  In the meetings where presenters read aloud their PowerPoints to the participants, everyone cringes.  Then we get restless and turn off our attention.


Study video trailers that you like.  What you like about them will be boiled down to three cardinal virtues.

A} Graphics

Most people use elements of their book cover or logo design for their short advertising.  K.M. Weiland does this very well with her book trailer for Dreamlander.  Examine the cover, then study how she uses the different parts to create her graphics for the trailer.

For products or services, the company’s logo and the packaging for the product or a stock image depicting the service can be used very similarly to the book cover.

Weiland’s trailer runs over a minute.  As interesting as it is, that length is beyond my attention range.  Her book seems greatly detailed in plot, however, so the minute-long trailer may be necessary.  You can see Weiland’s trailer here:


B} Text

Limit text.  You want to present your protagonists and their opening conflict question OR your product / service and the need it fulfills.  Sparking curiosity is also essential.  Another blog here details the instructions for creating a script.

Marr’s trailer sparks curiosity very well.  Mystery and intrigue are deepened with the simple text that accompanies the images allude to the book cover.  Weiland’s trailer also does the curiosity spark very well.

Sketch your 12 key points out and expect to spend the necessary time to polish them to a fine edge.  Keeping the word count down will keep the interest level up.

C} Sound

Believe it or not, sound is the trickiest of these three elements.

Sound is so personal.  People listen to certain types of music and rarely are eclectic enough to accept other types.

The sound you select should also represent the tone of your work.  Heavy metal will rarely work for historical fiction.  Preppy pop music will not fit a doctor’s office.  Soft piano will not work for epics.  Lilting Irish harp doesn’t equate with auto repair.

Sound ::  Problems with Voice

Narration, as already noted, can come across flat or artificially dramatic.  I personally don’t like it.  Neither of the book trailer options I have referenced use narration.  However, a nontypical voice or one that has a feature that stands out might possibly work.  Might.

“Featured” voices include accents.  Should you be tempted by an actor who can do a Scottish accent (or Irish, Cockney or Australian)?  After all, you might tell yourself, my book is set in Scotland.  I should hire someone–or get someone from the local little theater?

Or you might think, “My customers aren’t rich;  they’re just home folks.  A little country accent in the narration might go down well.”  Well, a country accent might turn-off a lot of customers who think it doesn’t sound “educated”, and it might NOT turn-off customers who like that “folksy” feeling.  How can you know?  You can’t, not without a survey of every customer you serve. 

So stop.  Just stop.  Will the narrator’s accent take away from the text?  Ask yourself this question before you find someone to do a narration for you.  Voice is personal.  If it’s not just right, it will turn away your viewers.  After all, most of Disney’s animated feature flops did not use people with distinctive voices.

If you’re desperate for voice, watch one of Pixar’s animated features.  They use voices that work with the characters, not with “big name actors”.   Pixar is the whole package.  Voices (not actors) are selected for how well their cadence, timbre, and tonal quality match to the characters.

Go enjoy Up,  Finding Nemo, and Toy Story  for the nth time.  The voices of the primary characters evoke the personality through tonal quality.  Ed Asner, Ellen DeGeneres, and Tom Hanks are big-name actors whose voices capture the personalities of the old man, Dory, and Woody.  These are FINE actors, not just people with a name.

In my research, I cringed through several narrated trailers.  It’s hard to do voice well.  Please stop that idea at its birth.

Instrumental music avoids the multiple problems of voice.

But, you ask, where can I get music that is 30 seconds or 45 seconds or 68 seconds long?  Try audiojungle.

On the audiojungle website, you can search for music types and for various lengths. (You will first need to determine the length of your trailer before you decide on a music selection.)  The cost will range from around $10 to $19 for 30 seconds to a minute.  Support these indie musicians, and don’t infringe copyright.  They are artists struggling to make a living, just as you are.


So, we decided to create book trailers for everyone here at Writers Ink Books.  We all want more promotions for our novels.  Book trailers seemed to be the next step.  I volunteered, and that was a four-hour learning curve.  Sigh.

The four-hour learning curve had nothing to do with the difficulty of computer program.  That was me and not the software.

I won’t go into the ins and outs of the software I used (MS MovieMaker) because these rudimentary helps are intended for the general user, and various software programs abound.  I picked MS MovieMaker since the program came installed with the version of Microsoft Office that I had.  MovieMaker, unfortunately, is no longer supported by Microsoft.  If you find the program on your computer or download a version, you will work through the learning curve then find it very simple.

However, I don’t advise venturing into the “no longer supported computer software” world.

In the most recent book trailers, I have used MS PowerPoint without a learning curve;  however, I was already extremely familiar with the program.  I found it simple to create slides then transfer the ppt to a movie form.

In PowerPoint, text manipulation is much easier than it is with MovieMaker.  Even though we don’t have a lot of text in our trailers and clips, we do want it to shine.

  To see what I have developed so far, here are three videos.

The first video is the one I developed for Edie Roone’s “A Matter of Trust”, with MS MovieMaker, a video following the first two cardinal rules of graphics and text, I hope.

Next is M. A. Lee’s Digging into Death, developed using MS MovieMaker.  Finally, here is M.A. Lee’s The Key to Secrets”, with MS PowerPoint, Both of these videos follow the cradinal rules for graphics and text and sound.








WIS: Book Trailers and Corporate Clips

Key Fundamentals of the Script for Corporate Clips and Book Trailers

1st Key: ID the Product Being Sold

The world of filmed advertisements can teach us the first important lesson when designing trailers and clips.

A mantra of film advertising is to present the product name 4 to 6 times.  When badly done, this repetition can be obnoxious.  When well done, it’s not noticeable but has subliminal power.

Product naming is basically creating an identifier for the marketplace.

If your book is part of a series—or a client’s company is part of a greater entity—you have another identifier to use.  A trailer or a clip can–in 30 seconds to a minute–intrigue the audience enough to catch their attention and stick in memory.

So, to hit the 7-name rule, we can place the title at the beginning, use the cover image, use the series name, then repeat the title followed once more by the cover image = 5 identifiers.

Telling people how to find the product and then once more repeating the name or series or author name gives us the Perfect 7.

2nd Key: Focus Points

In trailers and clips, we select several methods as our focus points.

Many people use the III-Act / Plot.  Some use the key events from Freytag’s Pyramid.  For the trailer, it may work better to consider four parts.

Businesses also have a story to tell:  about their services or their products.  Telling a story catches attention faster than a dry list of details.

When we add music, we create another unconscious connection.  Music—even in short trailers and clips—seems to develop through its own three- or four-step progress:  opening interest, the exposition (exposing) of the primary melodies (your characters), the development of the primaries (re-developed and intermingled), and the recapitulation (the primaries strengthened to a crescendo / the climax).

adapting to a Video trailer and corporate clip:

1st ¼ = introduction: set up and characters and suspense

A] Start with an identifier: title or series name or cover image.

B] Give a quick glimpse of the story / service / product: keep interest level high.  These are concepts, single words or phrases.  Consider elements of setting or conflict creators.

C] Hook the audience.  Present the characters: characters create connections.  Or present the purpose of the product or service.  

2nd ¼ is the Midpoint = characters in action with the plot and each other OR service / product fulfilling a need

D] A sentence for each protagonist (service) with their problematic situation or driving goal. Select only the protagonist or the hero & heroine;  strong secondary characters do not drive the story.  For services and products, we are locating the driving need that developed the item and discovering its significance in the marketplace.  Whether book, service, or product, this part may take two or more slides.

3rd ¼ = dilemma that begins driving to the end

E] What problem do the protagonists encounter? The dilemma should present the danger these characters are in.  Or how does the business present the product / service in a way that no one else does?

4th ¼ = the question that must be resolved

F] The conflict question that drives to the story’s end. Capture the tension in the last quarter of the book without revealing anything that happens.  We adapt this to business by presenting the expertise this business offers.

3rd Key: Keep the Script Clipped and Short

Now is not the time to be verbose.  Now is the time to cut.  Trailers and Clips are intended to be fast impressions.

Concepts should flash.  Sentences should intrigue.  If these two points—flash and intrigue—are not working, then nothing else will shine.

I used to hate to write a short script for my novels.  How can a writer reduce 85,000 or 100,000 words to five little sentences?

Do it.  Cut it.

Cut it shorter.  And cut out extraneous words.

Cut verb phrases to the verb alone (“will be fighting” >> “fight”). Remove adjectives and prepositional phrases.

This is not the time to dress up the writing.  Give the bones of the story or service or product:  it’s the idea that first intrigued you before you fleshed out that skeleton and gave it heart and muscles.

Cut it to the bare bones.

4th Key: Meld Visual with Verbal

Your verbals will benefit from intercutting with visuals.

For Books

Examine your cover.  A realistic cover should provide two or three elements that can be cropped and manipulated.   A good cover designer will create an evocative cover that enables aesthetic cropping.

An exceptional cover designer will provide banner alternatives for your cover image, to use for Facebook or Google or Twitter or bookmarks.  These alternatives can be used in your book trailer.

For Products or Services

We’re combining the business logo with an image that perfectly matches our focus.

If the logo is too concrete (a headline of title and author and a single graphic, such as a man running), then we can find some images in the public domain that are capture the product’s concrete feel or look (through color, through lines and shading).  If your logo is only headline words, images in the public domain will again be beneficial.

WikiMedia Commons has photographs and images in the public domain.  Search and see.   Places like ShutterStock offer licensed photographic and computer-drawn images for a $$$ fee for a single image.  Expect to pay for good quality, and you will never be disappointed.

Whether Trailers or Clips ~

You should anticipate showing your image at the beginning and end of the trailer.  Expect to use one or two more visuals (cropped images or the banner), depending on the length of your trailer.

Using text over the images cropped from your design is also possible.  It takes careful positioning.  White words over pale background OR black words over dark background cannot be seen.  Your first ventures into film editing may be benefited by not placing text over image.

5th Key: Shaping It

Here is a template that will create a trailer running 30 to 45 seconds, long enough to snare interest, not so long that the audience rolls their eyes.

The items grouped in threes can be arranged within that section.  I do not advise moving them out of that section.


  1. 1st identifier, verbal or visual
  2. 2nd identifier, verbal or visual (cover image)
  3. Quick glimpse of story / product / service
  4. Item introduction (one or two slides/cards)
  5. Visual of characters on cover (or logo / product)  or an abstract visual or a social media banner
  6. Problematic Situation / Driving Goal or Need that Product / Service fulfills (going to Midpoint of book or the customer’s need for the product)
  7. Another visual from the cover or logo—focusing on a danger or dramatic element
  8. Dilemma (see E] above)
  9. Major Question (F] )
  10. Cover/product image/ logo and location to find.   If the novel is part of a series, then state the author and the series on a separate slide/card.  If the product is available in other places besides the business, state that.  If the service is online as well as at a brick-and-mortar, promote that flexibility.

6th Key: Timing of the Trailers and Clips

Don’t linger too long on any one slide/card.

Figure out the timing for each slide by reading all the words aloud. We read aloud more slowly than we read silently.  That reading aloud will take into consideration those who do not read as rapidly.

Your visuals (unless you want them to be subliminal) should not flash past. Give your audience a chance to see but again do not linger.

A rich cover image would demand as much time as verbal slide/card.  Consider each element of a rich image as a long phrase to be read, and adjust your timing appropriately.

If your viewers want a longer look, they can re-watch your trailer.  It is better to have them re-watch it than turn it off because they’re bored.

7th Key: Sound for Trailers and Clips

Work out the timing of your slides before you look for your background music.  While music is powerful, it will not sell your book.  Do not find the music then figure out the timing for the slides.

When you have a basic timing for your slides, look for a musical clip with that time frame (from somewhere like audiojungle or Envato ).  On those sites, you can run a search based on time (thirty seconds or :30 seconds)

The opening sounds are as important as the closing ones.  The opening should grab attention but not startle.  Then music should gradually build.

The climax of the music should–hopefully–coincide with your Major Question (Slide/Card 9).

The music should then trail off as the trailer presents the last cover image and the location for purchase.

Once you add the sound file to your trailer, adjust the length of the slides accordingly to end at the same time.  The music should die out on your last slide/card.

CAVEAT:  With trailers and clips, you can tinker your way to insanity trying to get the sounds’ crescendos and decrescendos to match exactly.  Don’t.

Sound should capture the essence.

  • Powerful epic scores work with action-adventure and epic heroes, strong engines and manufacturing.
  • Piano and solo violins or cellos work with stories centered on relationship angst as well as office services that create tranquility for the client (a CPA handling taxes, for example).  Look for the romantic tag.
  • For mysteries or products and services that fulfill needs, music with the theme of cinematic works well.
  • Tags that are corporate and uplifting work when celebrating a business or service that changes people’s lives.  Motivational books fit this tag.

A Special Note for Video Trailers:  If your setting is strong—in Morocco or Greece or China—the music evocative of that culture will create intrigue.  Be careful:  the music should not dominate;  it should support.  Listen to several files before finalizing your purchase.

The Key-Ring

Your comments about our A Game of Secrets trailer will be appreciated.  If you would like assistance in creating a clipped script or a book trailer, please contact us for pricing options, dependent on the number of slides you wish to generate or the length of the book trailer you would like to have.


Summer Challenge

Summer challenge time!

2 versions available ~ beautiful flowers or the guiding task lamp

Are you ready to transform?

If you’ve dreamed of writing professionally–making $$$ from your words–the time is now.

But how?  What are the steps?  How do I avoid distractions and the dreaded writer’s block?  Where can I find creative exercises?  When do I know I’m no longer a hobby writer and that I am a pro?

Who can help?

Well, bud, you help yourself, but here’s a manual that can help you Think like a Pro.

Think like a Pro guides your growth through 7 lessons.  From deadlines to multi-tasking, Think like a Pro gives advice, tips, and tricks.

  • The # 1 lesson for success
  • A mantra to keep bum in chair
  • Choosing a plot
  • Essentials for characters
  • Conquering Writer’s Block
  • Sparking Creativity
  • Healthy Habits for projects, for yourself, and for the money you earn

Stop procrastinating, and achieve your dream.  Like the writer M.A. Lee, in three short years you can become a published writer of more than 12 novels.

Purchase the beautiful flowers version here.

Purchase the guiding lamp version here.

Also available is the Think / Pro planner, a daily companion to keep your goals on track.

With an undated layout, you can start anytime and skip any vacation weeks.  The two-page weekly spread offers progress meters, word count trackers, healthy habits monitors, and monthly, seasonal, & yearly reviews and previews.  Record your victories.  Analyze your challenges.  Determine your productivity.

The Think / Pro planner and the Think like a Pro book will encourage your transformation from hobbyist to professional writer.