Tips & Tricks on Formatting 1

Tips & Tricks on Formatting 1 how to stories

rosarlei 👊
Autoplay OFF   •   10 months ago
Choosing the right background for your story. Special focus on stock images.

Part 1

Tips & Tricks on Formatting 1

In the previous piece: Stories only Commaful can tell - Introduction - I fabricated the evolution of the formatting to make a point.

This time you'll see the struggle. At the time of this post, the final piece is not ready. But we'll use the opportunity to talk about choosing the background for your stories.

We'll talk about two things: 1. Why stock images may be difficult to work with. 2. One simple trick to make any image work for you.

Let's start with the poem: This is a first draft inspired by a prompt from halliebell: "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind" (The piece has five stanzas. For now I will only show you the first one.)

Pink Glasses: First Stanza

Woke up, short of breath, Couldn't let go of my face. Not long ago, I could have sworn, Glasses protruded, from my skull.

For a number of reasons, inspiration has been hard to come by with this piece. If you want to see a post about "writers block" or the creative process, let me know in the comments.

For now, let's see if we can make the Commaful stock images work for the first stanza.

"Woke up, short of breath Couldn't let go of my face."

Searching for a stock image means I have to try and reduce that line to key words. "Woke up" "Wake up" "Grab face" etc...

These are the images I chose from the Commaful library:

"Woke up"

"Wake up"

"Grab face"

Let's now see how those first two lines look in front of those three images:

Woke up, short of breath Couldn't let go of my face.

Woke up, short of breath Couldn't let go of my face.

Woke up, short of breath Couldn't let go of my face.

You probably noticed that the text is difficult to read when placed against these backgrounds. What if we move it around a bit?

Woke up, short of breath Couldn't let go of my face.

Before we continue, I would like to show you something from a guy called: "Walter Murch"

He is an academy award wining film editor known for his work on: -The Godfather trilogy -Apocalypse Now -The English Patient And many others.

Almost every lesson that I have learned about editing movies, can be applied to a Commaful story. These are his "Six Rules" for editing a film:

Notice that maintaining the emotion has the biggest weight in his view.

Let's take another look at the image I showed you before. Mind how your attention shifts between different elements:

Woke up, short of breath Couldn't let go of my face.

These are some of the things I noticed while looking at the previous slide:

A. Is there a face? It is a known fact that faces, specially eyes, are the first thing we notice and get interested about. You might want to keep this in mind when choosing your backgrounds.

B. What is the person feeling? This is tied to the first point. We are wired to extract information about how someone else feels or what they are paying attention to.

C. What is the person doing? What is he drinking? What he listening to music? Is he about to work or maybe on vacation?

D. What is he surrounded by? Now my attention moves to the windows, the furniture and continues looking for more minute details. Some of the objects might trigger my memory and/ or feelings.

E. What does the text say? Because the image already primed me to think about "waking up", those words have the biggest weight for me.

F. Why is it so difficult to read? Due to the white font, some parts of the text are difficult to read. Causing me to re-read the words to make sure I got them correctly.

G. What am I feeling? Whatever emotion I was supposed to feel is now buried under the previous six questions. Not counting the memories and emotions that might have come with them.

H. Do I know that guy? Who does he remind me about? Does the person remind your reader of a friend or an ex boyfriend?

Let's now take a look at the next image using the prompt: "Wake up"

Woke up, short of breath Couldn't let go of my face.

This is much better. But in my view, the picture is not supporting the emotion that the poem is trying to convey. It sits there, highly defined, and takes the attention of the reader away from what they are feeling.

Subconsciously, the reader might be trying to figure out why this image is part of the background. Is there something important about it? maybe the fact that it says: 5:50? Or maybe that it is an old clock?

let's try the third one:

Woke up, short of breath Couldn't let go of my face.

My brain would be like: "Who is this guy?" "Where is he?" "Why is that watch so big?" "This is difficult to read..."

I showed you several examples and reasons why stock images can be difficult to use. Let's now go to the second and last part of this post:

Is there any way to make these images work for a story?

The easiest way to make an image work with text is by blurring out the details. You have probably seen many quotes and poems against a blurry image.

Let's try blurring the images. But first, I will eat something because my brain dead...

Musli with banana, peanut butter and honey ... ( hard as fuck to read, don't you think? ^^)

While watching Shane... @friedchicken send him to me a few weeks ago and I can't stop binging on it 0.o

Let's blur the images anyway and see how it looks.

To get the blur effect I used:

If you google: "luna pic blur" or any other effect, it will take you directly to that function.

I blurred the image about 90% I took a custom screenshot from the Commaful editor and that is how I got the exact same image.

Let's now try these with the poem. I will also center the text and space it out. We want to make it easy to read.

Woke up, short of breath Couldn't let go of my face.

Woke up, short of breath Couldn't let go of my face.

It's slight better, right? But what about the emotion that we are trying to convey? Is it supporting that?

Let's do the others:

Woke up, short of breath Couldn't let go of my face.

Woke up, short of breath Couldn't let go of my face.

And the last one:

Woke up, short of breath Couldn't let go of my face.

Woke up, short of breath Couldn't let go of my face.

I have not been able to make stock images work for my pieces. But some people have.

I wanted to understand why using stock images was so difficult. I discussed it with a friend who has over 15 years of experience with design.

This is what we came up with:

Three (3) reasons why stock images are difficult to use

1. They are made to convey a clear meaning: Because images (specially faces) will take precedent over text and emotion, they are more likely to compete with your text rather than support it.

2. Bad transitions: When you move from one stock image to the next, the emotion is cut off almost completely. This happens because the images are usually unrelated in terms of author, colour pallet, motive, etc...

3. Arriving at the image: To find a stock image you need enter key words into a search box. That means you isolate and blow up one word from the entire line. Images themselves carry a powerful message, and if you write about anger and then use a picture of someone angry:

Not only do you risk "repeating" yourself, but also sending your text to the background. Noticed how your attention keeps moving to the guys face/ crotch?

Key take away: Be mindful of your readers attention and try to format in a way that diminishes the chances they will be distracted.

In the next piece we'll discuss a different kind of image that might be better suited for the format.

For more content like this please visit:

Thank you!

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