Writers as Chameleons

Thursday, April 13, 2017
Growing up, my family was friends with a fire chief's family. For a family pet they had -- surprise! -- a dalmatian. Of course it would be a dalmatian, The animal that had come to represent the entire fire fighting community. Not many professions have a mascot as intertwined with them as the dalmatian and fire fighters. But shouldn't we all have a mascot?

What would you choose to be the mascot for writers? I'd have to choose chameleon. Anyone who has spent time adjusting to a new publication's style book -- their seemingly random rules about Oxford commas, quotations marks, words on their "don't use" list, what absolutely must be included in the first paragraph -- will understand why I chose the chameleon. Editors and publishers have a specific picture of their publication and they want their writers to adhere to it. Enter the detail filled, nitpicking style book. Have you ever gotten a response to an article or query along the lines of, "It's interesting but just not a good fit for our publication."? Translated, that means "Work on your chameleon skills." Only a chameleon (a.k.a. a freelance writer) could manage to remember the style books of multiple publications, seamlessly fitting in with a variety of different publications by providing the style of article they want.

We're not only chameleons for editors and publishers. We're also chameleons for our readers. Two articles about the same subject can be completely different if they are for different audiences. An article about the ever changing testing process in the public schools in my state will read very differently for a teacher audience and a parent audience. The same can be said for almost any subject and audience. It is up to us, the chameleon writers, to adjust to who will be reading and choose the slant, tone and details that will appeal to them. It's up to us to create an article that will appeal specifically to our audience.

The upside of being a chameleon is the opportunity to sell several articles on the same subjects. The downside is that it can be exhausting! Have you ever been a chameleon for writing?

Do you think our mascot should be the chameleon? If not, suggest another mascot!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Jodi--I think a chameleon would be the perfect mascot for writers. And for publishers? Perhaps a snake. ;)

I recently spoke to a writing friend who had submitted an article to an educational journal. One reviewer loved it. The other one hated it. I guess in that case, the writer has to be a divided-down-the-middle chameleon.

Jodi, thanks for the reminder that there is a creature who must change themselves more often than a writer...

Angela Mackintosh said...

Very clever, Jodi! I have to agree with you. Not only for articles, but I think as fiction writers we're also chameleons because we have to step into the minds of our characters who may be entirely different from us.

Mary Horner said...

I love the idea of a mascot, and a chameleon is perfect!

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