Now that I have your attention, I’d like to talk to you about getting attention.
You all know I’m in school, and many of you will have fond or not-so-fond memories of college, yourself. This semester my classes are a mixed bag, as always, of things I enjoy and things I must endure. I am taking (it’s a requirement for my major) a public speaking class, for instance. Yesterday the professor outlined ways to get the attention of your audience, and it seems to me they are also relevant to a non-verbal form of communication, like, say, a blog post. Or a book.
The first was Familiarity: audience like to hear about, or talk about, things that are familiar to them. Shared experiences, like my comment above about college. Or when I post on facebook about what book I’m reading, and ask others to share what they are. I always get lots of likes and comments on such posts.
Second is Vital. This, she told us, is anything that is important to everyone. Safety, health… I realized that this could be Maslow’s heirarchy of needs, when you boil it down. We all need food, water, shelter, clothes, and sex. Which is why it’s a little odd that today’s neovictorianism seems to have gotten the stick by the wrong end and rather than being discreet about sex, as the Victorians were – at home, they were deeply sexual and passionate, they just weren’t public about it – the pendulum has swung from summer of free love, to a ban on booth babes and ‘sexy’ cosplayers at the big game cons. Is cosplay important to everyone? Probably not. However, it is a great way to get attention, unless of course people decide that you are getting too much attention. Freedom is important to everyone, that I think we can agree on.
Activity is the third one, and the hardest to do in a textual manner. Although I will say that gifs work rather well. And puppy-dog eyes.
And yes, of course we can go back to the cosplayers here, although frankly I think it’s a cheap out, because, well, I know it works!
Ahem, where was I?
Oh, yes, the one that is perhaps least relevant to us fiction writers: Reality. In a speech, the audience wants reality, she told us. Frankly, I really enjoy some fantasy – again, look at the popularity of cosplay, for a brilliant illustration. Why, when there is obviously so much joy taken in that escape from reality, would we take that away from the people who enjoy it? Because they succeed at getting attention?
Novelty: plan to have a back-up plan, she told us. Some things only work once, she told the class, and if you don’t get your timing right, they can be a big flop. I know I’ve seen this in writing. ee cummings, for instance, was pretty much a one-off with throwing out punctuation and being successful at it. The rest of us schmucks need to face up to grammar and get it right. Labeling it as racist is just a lazy ploy.
Suspense is one we fiction writers know very well. In the real world, you might never know how that situation turned out, in a story you’d better let your readers in on at least some conclusion.
No one said suspense has to be frightening…
And finally, the last thing she gave us for getting attention is Conflict. You know the old saying, if it bleeds, it leads. Although that’s not always what conflict means, as we writers already know. You can have plenty of conflict with the build-up to a first kiss. Or conflict over just how much skin are we allowed to show in public, now? How can they reconcile these two images, where one is perfectly acceptable, and the other is asked to leave her place of work and go change? We are indeed entering the new age of judgement, and it’s not a pretty conflict, at all.
I suppose this is as good a place as any for my book cover. Pixie Noir is on sale this weekend. I caught some grief over this image – and yes, Sarah used it on one of her books as well, since evidently we share a taste in chicks. But it gets attention!
Postscript: I have a Pi(e) recipe over on my blog today, in honor of Pi Day! Happy eating…
I dunno, I’ve thought about the whole cosplay situation and it seems to be a convergence of two disparate threads … kinda like two trains on the same rail.
Headed for a crash?
And you know what they say about trainwrecks.
Best in slo-mo?
The cover of Pixie Noir is one of my all time favorites. Every time I see it I’m captivated.
Thanks! I’ve had fun with this series and cover design – learned a lot.
FWIW, I agree with Joe. It’s awesome. 😀
I started a professional talk last week with “Imagine smelling and seeing the High Plains as a [native mammal].” And went from there into description, then did the usual thesis – evidence – argument – conclusion spiel. I got lots of compliments (not reading from my notes probably helped also.) How does this apply to writing? Probably 1) catch the reader a little off guard (as you say above), 2) start with action, 3) know your stuff, be it firearms, logging, the lay-out of Hampton Court palace in 1600, what women can and can’t do in a late-Victorian corset, and so on. And 4) don’t force the words/story by, say, trying to be literary if that’s not really your thing.
Not reading when you are giving a talk really does help, yes. This last speech we did in class, 80% of the people were reading, a lot, and it was very awkward.
I’m currently writing stories about problems I helped solve. I want to entertain and hold attention, even if it boils down to a CV.
‘So Sarah needed some filler. I was in the mood, almost had the time, and someone had asked for something that I could misconstrue into fun. I set to work.’
My blog picture is me and my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant foxy praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA. I’ve got a .357 in a shoulder holster (which you can’t see) , and Vanessa is holding a shotgun (which you can).
But I ain’t gonna show my hairy chest.
People have blinded themselves at White Water when I appeared in a swim suit.
The ban on booth babes falls into the SJW pattern:
1.) Take aim at something successful.
2.) Complain it’s not PC.
3.) Ruin it for everybody.
And a ban on “sexy” cosplayers? Oh, I hope I’m not the only one who sees this erupt into SJW on SJW fighting. 😀
I think it’s awfully vague. Then again, I’m flashing back to my religious school dress codes, and wincing.
I’m just seeing the “I can wear whatever I want because I’m a woman” crowd going at it with the “such outfits objectify women” crowd…
…and it’ll be glorious.
Religious school-type dress codes though? That’s a big old truck load of nope.
I think the banning of Booth Babes, and such IS silly. but Jessica Nigri does push the envelope sometimes. It’s not the first time she’s been asked to change to a less revealing costume.
That said, the costumes often seen at some conventions are barely there at all, so it’s still considerably up in the air.
“Some of the costumes seen after Dragon*Con officially closes to the public [at night] have less to do with fabric than with body paint, a personal trainer, and a healthy sense of self-esteem.”
I wish I could remember who told me that, because it’s true. So very, very true. And not always in a good way.
You know what my other business is, right? I’ve seen the pictures.
For the record, your title DEFINITELY got my attention. The only way it could have done more was if Irish whiskey had made it in there. Then it would have been a complete list of my favorite things. 😀
What can I say? I know my audience! 😀
Yes. Yes you do.
But some of us (read: me) aren’t all that complicated, so there’s that to keep in mind. 😀
Very true. Then again, this is a blog for those of straightforward tastes.
Yep. And that’s why I like it here. 😀
That, and the fact that no one’s kicked me out yet. So, there’s that. 😉
Straightforward? I was promised books about mini-potato guns. I feel obscurely robbed. I had these tater tots all ready for flinging… ;P
Hold your horses there.
It comes out next month.
well, there is such a thing as a potato gun. I’ve got some in the closet for the kids to play with this summer (not in the house).
I should write a review of my potato gun for my blog.
Well, it’s usually smart to put up the guns when the whiskey comes out …
It might be smarter, but it’s not always as much fun.
Heck, when I saw the notification in my email, I missed the word, “Books” in the title, and didn’t see it until I came to the page.
“Aggressive amounts of cleavage” are a problem. Does this mean that passive cleavage is perfectly ok? 😉
Sounds good to me! But do I have to sip white wine whilst eating your cheese pie? (couldn’t spell quishsheesh!)
Well, I was drinking chocolate (almond) milk with it in the picture. But a good dark German (I’m picky) beer would be tasty alongside it.