This is how the famous Austrian art historian E. H. Gombrich described one of the most recognizable paintings in the world:
“Thus when we look at what remains of Leonardo’s famous wall-painting of The Last Supper, we must try to imagine how it may have appeared to the monks for whom it was painted. The painting covers one wall of an oblong hall that was used as a refectory by the monks of the monastery of Santa Maria delle Crazie in Milan. One must visualize what it was like when the painting was uncovered, and when, side by side with the long tables of the monks, there appeared the table of Christ and his apostles. Never before had the sacred episode appeared so close and so lifelike. It was as if another hall had been added to theirs, in which the Last Supper had assumed tangible form”.
It is said that there is nothing as fruitless and hopeless as trying to convey art and its meaning and impression upon the beholder. That being said The Story of Arthas been republished in many different languages and is in its 16thedition since its initial release in 1950.
The book is considered a cult classic by many, because of its ability to present art in an easy and understandable way even to a complete layperson. Gombrich manages to condense pieces of art in such a way that it allows the reader to feel the emotions and circumstances that influenced the birth of a specific art piece; helps them understand what was the impetus for the author while working on it. The readers feel as if they are right there, in the room, when the described piece of art is born.
When covering the famous fresco Gombrich emphasizes the importance of the moment. Instead of focusing on how it looks, he talks about how the first witnesses must have felt when they gazed upon it. He returns the joy of the moment to the reader by taking him or her by the hand and allowing them to sit down by the table with the group of monks as they see it for the first time.
This is but a small extract from the book, and arguably not even the most exciting one, however it does ring home to something very important for the daily life of a communications expert. How to catch and retain the attention of a reader from the very beginning till the end of a text.
Writing this well is pure talent, or does it require a certain level of skill? David Ogilvy once said that good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Although knowing that he is a cult personality in the world of advertising, there might be a hint of flirtation in his words.
In her book Be a Better WriterSuzanne Lieurance says that in order to write a good piece you have to start from the audience, which you are addressing. Before putting the proverbial pen to paper. She advises the would be author to clearly define who is the text made out to.
If we know the audience, it becomes a lot easier to imagine the way we need to write. Defining your audience allows you to pick the right tone, vocabulary, definitions and style. Suzanne Lieurance suggests defining your reader in a short paragraph or a few phrases as a handy guide to go back to as you write your piece. This helps in keeping to the point, not straying too far from your reader and keeping their attention focused.
One of, if not the most important key in painting is the way the author plays with colors and lighting to capture and portray a specific intended atmosphere. The richer your story, the more interesting it is to read it. The more directions in which you cover the story the more it feels genuine, interesting, and like a real conversation with your reader.
The context of your story becomes the lighting and the colors that help create emotion and a certain natural atmosphere that funnels attention into the main idea you are trying to convey. Even if your piece is meant to introduce a specific new managerial tool for finance, if it was created, then it solves some sort of a problem. Perhaps the idea to create it was born out of a specific story? Were there mistakes or hurdles the team had to surpass on their way to the final product that made it even better than initially envisioned?
Context in which a company works, their victories, and their mistakes are instrumental. All of that creates a genuine feeling of sincerity, and sincerity can soften even the most difficult to approach reader.
Have you ever read a wine review? If so, then you know that wine can be zesty, creamy, rich, opulent, crisp, flamboyant and even fat. If the descriptions are eloquent and direct a reader can swear they already feel the taste of the wine on their lips or the gentle acidity that hits the sides of the tongue.
In her book A Workshop for Effective Messagesthe writer and life-coach Ilzė Butkutė says that a text comes to life and becomes attractive through unorthodox use of words, phrases, onomatopoeias and interjections, a colorful vocabulary or unexpected punctuation. Onomatopoeias and interjections are tools that radio hosts, who provide color commentary for sports, usually master and perfect.
Since their goal is to convey the drama of real life sports through speech, every pass is described nicely and uniquely and every pause grips the attention of the listener as they wait for the goal. The colorful onomatopoeias and interjections, metaphors and epithets create the emotion of the heated atmosphere in the sports field that engulfs the listener through the airwaves.
A fluid text needs structure. However, a truly memorable text sets itself aside from the rest through emotions. Even if the emotions are fake, even if the monks that sat down by the table all those years ago were so hungry they hardly noticed the fresco. If your goal is to convey more than just the facts, if you aim to convey a message that would stick with the reader, then you need to stir their imagination and never forget curiosity.