SEX

And now that I have suitably got your attention, let me tell you that this post has nothing to do with sex at all. This post is about writing.

(I know you’re feeling stabbed in the back. Life’s unfair. Keep faith.)

Did you notice something?

You were caught red handed right away when you read that headline.

Ahem

(Sex does sell. People who deny this are perverts all the same.)

This, to me is the foremost advice for any aspiring writer. Catch the reader in the first line, the first word. Visually translated, this would be like yanking the reader away from whatever he was doing to whatever you want him to do. And if you are a writer you want him to read the next line. And the next. And the next. Right down to the last word.

Being in advertising taught me this quite literally. The headline is the most important part of the entire ad. People do not have time. Attention spans are on a all-time low. You have to do something that’s going to force the reader to forget everything for a moment and run his eyes through your book/ad/blog post. Put simply, if you’re out to murder, murder with the first blow.

Once you’ve hit the sweetspot with your first few words, you’ve got to retain the reader. Watch any daily mega serial carefully. How does it end? With suspense. There never is any conclusive ending to anything that the viewer must watch the next day as well. This tradition goes back to the greats. Did you know that many of the revered authors and playwrights (read: Charles Dickens and others) wrote in fortnightly magazines. Carefully read the chapter endings of any old classic by Dickens. It hangs up the reader in unabashed anticipation. So that he tosses and turns on his bed for days together and dashes to the paper stands first thing in the morning to put his mind at rest.

What happened after the protagonist proposed to his Lady Love?

What did the wife do when she opened the bedroom door and found her husband in the bed with another Lady?In short: your job as a writer is to instill the question- What happens next? In the reader’s mind.  For this, you need to be a person with keen understanding of the human psychology. You have to answer uncomfortable questions like, Where do I stop? How much do I reveal? How do I link the next line with the one before and the one that’s coming up? You must be aware of advertising ‘teasers’ These are promotional material that place the eternal carrot in front of the intended udience.

Pardon me for dwelling in the vocation of advertising to explain concepts.

We’re talking in the age of technology. Where everybody is searching for the 25th hour. Can you imagine what kind of writer would it take to sell a product using long copy which is a full page ad with no visuals, bursting with words telling you to buy a blasted microwave oven?

Well it requires a genius. Neil French almost features next to no one in writing long copy ads. Look at the one below and you’ll understand what I’m trying to put across.

You also have to have a specific audience in mind. A kid of 4 is not an adolescent of 19. I would request you not to try selling condoms to the former. Always remember, though you are the Creator, you also carry the yoke of the Creator’s responsibility. You have to craft you words with the responsibility of accommodating the audience (Read “With great Power, comes great responsibilities.”)

You also have to be very sure why you are writing at all. Rilke summarily puts across his point in Letters to A Young Poet, “If you can live without writing, don’t write”. Even without going into the extreme opinions of geniuses which some of us can’t hope to be, you do have write for a cause. For love and for passion. Anything else is an etcetera.

Lastly, try to be your best critic.

I was trying to get an article published, when someone said,

“Read it again if you wrote it for publishing. Write for yourself first.”

If your writing touches your heart, there’s a good chance that it might touch a million others.

I will not be foolish enough to contemplate on the comparative ‘mights’ of the Pen and the Sword because it’s downright absurd.

I will however leave you with a little laughter. 🙂

Please remember you are a creative person. Everyone is creative. Stagnation is man-made. Take action before Asimov’s Laws of Robotics becomes your anthem.

Write honest. Write passion. Write you.

Yours Joblessly,   The Jobless Ideator

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