Monday, August 15, 2011

Sticking our Readers into an Interesting Situation

blog16Friday afternoon my husband and I had a nice lunch together, then he asked if I could run an errand for him (he was going back in to the office) and return a purchase to a major electronics chain store.

I walked into the store, in my usual sort of absentminded fog, strolled over to the customer service area, and immediately noticed that everyone was very angry.

There were two men from management looking grim and anxious with their arms crossed. The customer service representatives were frozen. There were two customers being helped at the same time and both were sort of leaning in over the desk, looking tense. There was a police officer (who is frequently assigned a beat at the store) watching intently. The customers in line seemed very stiff and kept looking sideways at each other.

And I had just sort of wandered in in a very peppy mood and into this tension. What’s more, I couldn’t even tell what was going on. Finally, the elderly lady in front of me turned around and said in a fierce tone, “Someone should help that woman!”

That woman?” I asked, nodding to the middle aged woman at the desk. “What’s happening?”

But I didn’t get an answer because suddenly the woman erupted like Mt Vesuvius, yelling that that was the worst customer service she’d ever seen, going up to the police officer and seeming to make some sort of low-voiced suggestion to her (maybe that they arrest the customer service department?!) then storming out the door, still yelling.

Afterwards no one looked at anyone else and the customer service people started quickly helping the rest of the line. And I never did find out what was going on.

But it made me think that this is the kind of thing we want to do with our readers.

We don’t know what kind of day our readers are having. Maybe they’ve just had a nice lunch and are feeling happy and daydreamy, like I was. Maybe they’re having a rough day or week.

We want to drag our readers into something different—something funny, something tense, something interesting. We want to provide some escape and something to pique their curiosity or interest. We want to get them hooked.

Read any good openings lately? Written any? How do you propel your readers into a new world?

For some reason, Blogger insists this post was published Friday, instead of today! Trying to republish it now...