The Art of Enticing the Reader
So while I was discussing (read harassing my friends) what to write for today’s post, and the topic of push vs pull came up. My response was, “It’s pull all the way. Our books need to hawk themselves behind the loo block in their stiletto heels and showing way too much leg while saying in a breathy voice “Looking for a good time?””
Then I realized this was much more accurate than I’d originally thought. People tend to prefer to have a good time when they’re not involved with the things they have to do. We’re competing (and also cross-fertilizing – it’s best not to go too far with the extended metaphors and analogy pretzels there) with all the leisure things: futzing around on social media, watching TV, going to movies, playing games, cute cat videos, you name it.
Of course, what any given person considers a good time isn’t going to be quite the same as what the person standing next to them thinks is a good time (slight digression – this can be a handy means of telling whether you’re facing your best friend or their evil double, assuming said double has the smarts to remove the obligatory Evil Double Goatee. Ask them their definition of fun. The real one will give an answer that’s pretty close to what you’d expect your best friend to say – flaws and all. The evil double will either tell the truth and you know they’re the evil double, or they’ll say what they think the right thing to say would be, and you’ll still know they’re the evil double. Anyway…). We’re a remarkably diverse lot, for a species so incredibly genetically uniform that (if I remember right – the stainless steel lint trap of a mind isn’t the world’s most reliable instrument) any two random humans from any two parts of the world are likely to have less difference in their DNA than two kittens from the same litter would have difference in theirs.
This, I think, is the real origin of Rule 34. And the reason writers need to stop thinking push and start thinking pull (and not, unless you’re writing porn, the “push it in and pull it out and wipe it” type of push and pull).
You see, if our species is this diverse in preferences, then damn near anything can find an audience, and a big enough audience to keep the writer fed, clothed, and housed. But the way to find that audience isn’t to go pushing oneself at anyone who looks like they might be a potential reader. That way lies performance anxiety, as it were.
No, the way to find one’s audience is to entice the readers, to seduce them and convince them via a bit of tantalizing display of leg that there’s more goodies over this way, and they really, really want to come and look a little closer.
Now, there are a whole lot of other stories out there, showing their fishnet-encased legs and whispering sweet promises to potential readers, so it’s important that our stories are properly dressed. By which I do not mean corseted and whatnot (unless it’s that type of book, of course). I mean making sure the cover and title signal the type of book it is so the reader who’s looking for big fat fantasy with nancing elves and gruff dwarfs doesn’t chase your space opera and then get horribly disappointed.
Teasing helps, too. I’m sure the more discerning among our readers have noticed that if you conceal the right things it’s much more attractive and intriguing than if you show it all or hide it all. The tease, the little bit of leg seen through a slit skirt (metaphorically speaking), the suggestion of the greater delights to be found within… All of these help to convince a potential reader that your book is the one to open.
Then, of course, you have to hook them fast and keep them reading. Which is a topic for a different post.