Sunday, March 24, 2013

Cultivating Readers

By Fred Fields

I used to be a public speaker.

The first thing one must learn when speaking to a group, is "Don't put your audience to sleep". Keep them involved, wanting to hear more.

The question is, "How do you do that?"

Every good speaker knows there are two tricks to the trade, humor and good stories. Make your audience laugh, and make them want to hear the rest of the story. And if you can slip a little message in there, so much the better.

President Kennedy said, "Open with a joke. Get the audience on your side, if that's possible."

Zig Ziglar was probably the most famous public speaker in America for years because he had the talent to wrap his message in humor.

The same is true of writing, whether it's fiction or non-fiction. When I start a paper, whether it's a short blog or a novella, my first thought is, "Who will be interested in what I'm writing, and how long can I hold their interest?"

Of course, humor is not always the answer. A textbook, certainly, won't have a lot of humor. But if the writer is inventive, it may contain some.

For example, a textbook about the Civil War might include the story of President Lincoln asking his cabinet for a vote on the wisdom of enacting the Emancipation Proclamation. Every cabinet member voted against, with Lincoln alone, voting for the Proclamation.  President Lincoln's ruling on the vote; "The ayes have it."

When we write fiction, we hope that the story is a good one, one that will keep the reader involved until the last word. Much fiction is humorous, but even the dreariest, saddest, most serious piece should have a humorous quip or two to relieve the tension.

Right now, I'm considering a book of historical fiction about Simon de Montfort, a thirteenth century English earl who led a revolution that took over the government of England from Henry III for a year. And in that year, de Montfort invited the first commoners to participate in the English Parliament. My question is "How many people would read a book about some unknown figure from eight hundred years ago?" Simon was a unique, interesting, exciting man, but can I write his story well enough to generate that interest?

So you see, choosing what to write about is as important as how to write about it. It will be a waste the time and effort writing a book, if no one is going to read it.

1 comment:

Len Lawson said...

If you're still having doubts about writing the book, think of how well THE KING'S SPEECH turned out...