Emotion in Motion in Writing

At an early age, writers are instructed to show, not tell.  Exercises help writers improve their ability to transport readers to any place imaginable, and depict all five senses through words.  From the moment I began work on my Capstone Project, which focuses on a trip I took to Japan 8 months ago, I knew that showing my writer the places I visited through writing would be key to completing a well-rounded piece.  I tried, and have succeeded, in painting vivid images through words.  Yet one area of my project that has been a serious challenge has been the portrayal of my emotions during my trip through writing.

One of the difficulties in writing about emotion stems from experience: different people experience emotions different ways.  Identifying the proper metaphors or descriptions to portray emotions can be challenging.  One helpful tip I received was to use physical descriptions as a conduit for emotions.  For instance, describing beads of sweat forming above an eyebrow is a nice and easy way to portray nervousness or fear.

Another difficulty is striking the balance between over-encumbering a reader with emotional descriptions, and leaving too much up to the reader’s imagination.  We always strive to force our readers to do some work as they process our writing and imagine our descriptions.  Yet leaving readers with too much work to do, or creating descriptions that are not tight enough, can damage the lens and message that a piece is attempting to deliver.

I’m curious to hear if other writers on the Minor in Writing blog have struggled with depicting emotion in their writing. What methods or tips can you share for crafting emotional and thought-process descriptions that are both accessible and deep enough for readers?

A First Glance at Digital Journalism

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In beginning the research portion of my project, I started surfing around on a few digital magazine/content provider sites that Professor McDaniel suggested I look into. For those of you who might not know, my capstone project is centered on challenging the notion that print journalism is dead. In particular, I am investigating print articles in a number of prominent magazines, and highlighting what print journalism is still doing better than digital journalism. In this case, though I will not focus on digital content providers, for instance, BuzzFeed, Slate, and Salon, I plan to use them as points of comparison. Below were my immediate thoughts at first glance:

I am extremely familiar with BuzzFeed, and think its content, design, and utility is both innovative and unique. BuzzFeed offers a wide range of article types, including everything from long form to “listicles”. What I like most about BuzzFeed is that its content is presented in a visually appealing manner. Each article is supported with effective images, categorized into sections, or written in a friendly yet witty manner that is easy to understand. I believe, however, that BuzzFeed does not always offer the most newsworthy content to readers. As Michael Massing alludes to in his article on digital journalism in The New York Review of Books, BuzzFeed has a reputation for its cat photos and humorous listicles. I think the “News” section of the site is effective in terms of significant journalism, however, it’s “17 Boozy Ice Cream Recipes To Get You Through The Holidays”- and “19 Times Lindsay From “You’re The Worst” Was A Goddamn Inspiration”-type articles are more effective at entertainment, rather than journalism.

I was a bit overwhelmed by Slate when I first arrived on the website. The content seemed endless and sort of all over the place. At the top of the page, the content was not sorted not by topic or category, rather, by reader activity and recency. It was divided into columns titled “Most Read,” “Most Shared,” “Most Recent,” “In Case You Missed It,” and so on. The interface, however, was extremely representative of “digital journalism.” There were videos, slideshows, and audio recordings embedded into almost every article I clicked on. Overall, though it was difficult to sort through the information, Slate offered a very interactive reading experience, as well as a wide range of content.

I was more comfortable with my experience surfing through Salon than I was surfing through Slate. There were topical categories at the very top of the homepage, which made it easier to sort through the information. Even still, the website provided me with a very- for lack of a better word- vertical experience. I felt the scrolling process was never-ending, that there was an overabundance of content featured on the homepage alone. I felt I had to personally choose which articles were worth clicking on, rather than being shown or told which were most relevant and worth my time. I do recognize that there are less spatial constraints on the Internet, and that digital news organizations take advantage of posting a ton of content at once. I, however, find this aspect of digital journalism overwhelming, rather than beneficial.

Core, Anti-, and Proximal Audience

Minor Item 4: Capstone Project Audience

At first, I struggled with the following questions: How does the topic of your capstone project relate to people other than yourself? How will you make your project interesting and relevant to the larger public? In choosing a topic as specialized as magazine journalism- print magazine journalism for that matter- the answers to these very questions were initially hard to come by. It is evident that journalism, or content production/ consumption, is a specialized topic in it of itself, let alone the print side of the industry.

Core Audience:

People in my core target audience are those involved or interested in print journalism, specifically feature/magazine writing. They understand that print journalism is at risk, however, value it as an influential and significant source of information. Furthermore, people in my target audience are those who also prefer digital journalism over print journalism, and are unaware of the value of the latter. I hope to change these people’s beliefs, or even simply further their knowledge on the matter. Lastly, I hope to target those generally interested in journalism, information, or news, and those whose consume or interact with such content on a daily basis.

Proximal Audience:

When I tell people I want to pursue print journalism as a profession, they often and automatically respond with disappointment and doubt. It is clear that print journalism is a dying market, as today’s content is predominantly produced and distributed through digital means. Even still, print journalism does not stand alone: there are other markets and industries experiencing similar situations. Consider the book publishing industry, or even the record industry, both of which have been overtaken by either technology or digital media.

In this way, my proximal audience will consist of people not in my immediate target audience, rather, just to the left or right. These people are the “book publishers” or those in the record industry, who are experiencing vulnerability, just as I am, when it comes to their professions and passions. Though they may not be interested in feature writing or print journalism directly, they have an interest in a field of study or profession that is either undervalued or losing value overtime.


People that I will rule out of my audience are those who do not care for information consumption, news, or journalism in any matter. I will not be able to reach people who have no interest whatsoever in the industry, let alone those who are interested in print feature writing. I am aware that my project will not reach/make an impact on everyone, however, I will do my best to reach the audience members I know I am capable of reaching.

Unsettling Contradictions

The first set of claims I felt uncomfortable making, mainly because of their contradictory nature, had to do with the genre of writing I most closely identify with: creative nonfiction. A large portion of my essay deals with my transition away from creative fiction writing and toward creative nonfiction writing. In my essay, I explain that creative nonfiction writing, for a number of reasons, has become the writing I love and enjoy most, as well as the writing I am best at. Toward the latter parts of my essay, however, I blatantly contradict my claims. As a former intern at Hearst, I have gained access to the corporation’s editorial database, one that allows people within the Hearst community to submit creative feature stories to potentially be published by its national titles. Thus far I’ve submitted three stories, none of which been picked up. Instead, I’ve received a “declined” notification alongside my submissions- time and time again. How can I confidently and truthfully claim that I am “best” at a particular writing form, if nobody of higher status (aside from a professor or two in an academic context) has validated this notion? I leave this issue sort of unresolved, as my contradictions do not make much sense.

The second set of claims I felt uncomfortable making, also because of their contradictory nature, was the evolution I underwent as a seven year old when my parents told me, time and time again, that I was a talented writer. At first, I claim that these moments of direct and positive feedback were moments of transformation. My parents telling me I was a talented writer gave me a sense of identity in the world. It helped me to believe in myself and more clearly view myself as a “Writer” with a capital “W”. Later, however, I contradict myself, claiming that these moments were not true moments of transformation; rather, they were simply moments of encouragement. I then go on to say that the times I truly learned, changed, evolved, and became better was when I received criticism or suggestions or some form of feedback that made me revisit my writing, or even rethink my interests in and passion for writing. Not only are these claims contradictory, however, they are also sort of unsettling. Can we only become “better” if we are told we did something wrong, and taught how to fix it? Can we become “better” through mere praise? In retrospect, I do not feel I found time in my essay to illustrate the latter: positive evolution through positive feedback.

Final Comments on Portfolios

Everyone had some great portfolios! Here is one of my evalutations:

1. Mitch

I love the connection between science and English and I think you’ve touched on a very cool angle for this project. The background feels very personal and maybe nostalgic of older manuscripts. I really like it, it has a very approachable atmosphere to it, but I think it deters away from your science and atoms theme. Perhaps you could try to connect it more to the theme of atoms? perhaps something a little more scientific looking. I’m thinking beakers or atoms exploding, but then again I really don’t know science

I love the theme of all the atoms fitting together as I mentioned, but I think your pages lack a little bit of connection to one another. Perhaps if you could make something consistent throughout such as text and color. I noticed you fluctuated a bit on that. Or a consistent background would be good too!

As for your capstone, I love it! Very cool subject and I think this is something people would be interested in learning more about. I appreciated the chapter-like structure of it and the personal connections you offered. You definitely have approached this in a scientific yet personal writing style so I think it connects great to your portfolio theme!

damn guys awesome job! + a few responses to portfolios that i thought were dope

Wow. Hugely impressed with everyone’s project. I honestly wanted to respond to all of them, but since writing 3500-4000 more words for this class isn’t something I am physically/mentally able to do right now, I picked three that really stood out to me when I first skimmed through the list. Also although this is already obvious, I want to stress that what I picked is very subjective and reflects my own interests and aesthetic preference.  I really thought everyone did an excellent job. Finally, I want to say that I seriously learned a lot and made significant strides in my writing working with you all throughout this past semester and throughout the Minor. I wish you all the best moving forward!


1. Lisa Miller-
The design and organization were the first aspects of your portfolio that caught my eye. This is where personal bias comes in, but after using Bootstrap for a while (and for my own portfolio), I am really drawn to sites that use it elegantly. I really like the vertical-scrolling-with-nav-bar layout because it allows all of the content to be readily present and accessible. Really nice customization! Visually I also thought your use of graphics were really appealing in that they were not overused, colorful, and gave a good sampling of what material was to come.

Speaking of material to come, your project is among the most informative I’ve seen. The use of graphs to illustrate the points you make does a great job of both dividing up the blocks of text and explaining them. The way you separate each misconception clearly presents the information despite the density of the topic. Although the political nature of your project, you did a good job of presenting the facts even if your bias is still present. I think that bias shows voice; after all, this is your project and thus includes a argumentative aspect that while subtle is effective. Great work!

2. Kaitlyn Byrne-
Since all I know (or knew, before your project) about Game Theory was its mention in A Beautiful Mind, this is the context in which I started to read your project. Soon, however, I realized I had also forgotten what Game Theory actually was besides an explanation of why to avoid blonde girls, and therefore this project was a great refresher in that regard. In addition, it was also a really interesting personal narrative, and the way you managed to weave the two together made it an exceptional piece. Your use of the future/conditional second person tense is one of things that really hammers this home. The tone felt like an angel/devil perched on my shoulder- I didn’t know what was manipulative and what was just clever, but it was all compelling. I also found the transitions from narrative prose to thought experiment and theory a great way of both explanation and dividing up the text (similar to how the graphs functioned in Lisa’s project like I mentioned above). Finally, I also thought the navigational structure of your portfolio was really straightforward and intuitive. It was very enjoyable to read!

3. Brooke Gabriel –

I’ve always thought the concept of tying together recipes with personal narrative was a cool idea, but I’ve also always wondered how its execution would look, and if it even could be pulled off. Well, Brooke, I know now it is possible to do, and to do really well. First off, I’m vibing heavily with the wood paneling background, I feel like I could be in a 70s-80s style home kitchen, about to chop it up with grandma. After the home page, I went right to your Capstone Project, and immediately liked the continuation of the theme. The intro reminding me a sort of menu introducing your work, and then the recipe cards as a more in-depth look, linking to your content.

Content-wise, all around your writing is compelling. What was cool for me was to have a choice of what to read, even if you didn’t intend for this to be the case. What I mean is that sometimes I was just content simply whetting my palette with the brief recipes you provided, but other times I wanted more and continued on to the essays. I’m not sure who I was rooting for between Jeff and your vegan diet, but you probably picked the healthiest option by splitting with both. Overall, I had a lot of fun reading this. Awesome work!


Help: Evolution Essay Rewrites

Has anyone worked on their Evolution Essays? I basically have a mini-heart attack every time I think about this class and everything I have to get done for it. I’m wondering if other people are in the same boat/if I’m behind in this aspect. I’m not even sure how I should go back into my essay and work on it to make it better!

Would people be willing to review my essay in the google doc? (easy assignment pool points!)

Also I’d love it if more people put theirs in the google doc for review, that way I can see what other people’s look like/get ideas from them on how I can better my own. (also I can get points for the assignment pool!)

In Search Of People Willing to Share

Hello all!

For part of my final project I am hoping to photograph people in normal settings and share some information about their mental health or thoughts/experiences on mental illness. I am not confined to only photographing people who experience mental illness–the whole idea of my project is to change the idea that mental health is just for those with mental illness.

I’d really like to share the stories of students at Michigan! I want to photograph people in normal student situations and in the text share their connection to mental health or a quote they’ve shared about it.

Would any of you be willing or would you know anyone who would be? (ps thanks Jamie for already helping me out in this way!)

Holy wow I am behind on this assignment pool

Sweet, innocent Mary of two days ago thought she was doing alright on this whole capstone situation.  Project website pretty much all designed, writing up content, feeling good.  Yeah, there are some “assignment pool” points to rack up, but what does that even mean, really, since I’m making good progress on the project? (I’m dropping third person, third person is lame)

“I’m a busy woman with four other classes and jobs to apply to!  I’ll breeze through that assignment pool later!” -actual record of my thoughts

Anyway, that assignment pool is looking a lot bigger this side of spring break.  I made a big list of all the assignments that it seems I could feasibly do in the next two months, and the grand optimistic total (including attendance) is 765 points.  That puts me squarely in the “Doom” grading category, as noted in the syllabus.

I’m not whining about fairness — it’s my fault for not adjusting to the grading system earlier.  I’m just wondering, how are you all doing it?  Tell me your secrets, capstone writers!  Are you doing five assignments a day?  Are you doing them in your sleep?  Did you (gasp) actually start way back in January?  Please comment on this so I can also comment and get more points and also so we can have a valuable and information conversation, obviously.

In conclusion, this is my face right now:


Wix Template: Descriptive or imaginative?

Over spring break, I’m going to design my project website because I know that having that template in mind will be key for my content-creating process over the next month and a half. Also, side note for some reason the words I’m typing for this post only show up when I’m highlighting them so be prepared for some typos.

As I’m looking through the Wix site template options, I’m feeling divided on what I want my site to look like. My project is on the process science fiction world-building in a story which I’m writing, and I’m conflicted between having the site open directly into the universe I’m creating with an image and different things to explore and click on, including an “About” page that describes what the project is, or opening on the about page itself. The first option is more aesthetically pleasing and the second is clearer.