Part 2 of The Creative Writing Crash Course.
If you are just joining us, you can read the introduction to our little Creative Writing Crash Course and then start with Part 1 of this series – The Message.
First impressions are important. The first few words you utter upon a page are crucial. They will determine whether or not anyone keeps reading. They either whet the appetite, making the reader want more, or they make the reader yawn with mediocrity and walk away from the rest of the page.
However, you cannot simply grab your reader with one ferocious shake at the beginning and expect them to sit through 17 more paragraphs of ordinary, everyday blah, blah, blah. So, this creative writing session is all about how to:
1. Tell a story and refer back to it
Do I know any good stories that help convey my message? Are they quick to the point and engaging? How can I kick them up a notch so people will want to read more? What aspects of the story can I use along the way as I write the rest of my post?
Some people are natural story tellers. You know them…they tell story after story about all these outlandish things that you are just sure could never happen to any single person, but you know they aren’t lying. The same thing could happen to someone else and the story would be excruciatingly boring, yet when it happens to Mr. Storyteller, it has drama, excitement, tears, and laughter. What Mr. Storyteller is good at is “kicking it up a notch.” A story is only as good as its storyteller, so what you need is an arsenal of descriptions and stories that capture your audience. Then, as you continue to write you are able to weave the story into the tapestry of your writing so as to hold your audience’s attention.
Come up with 1 funny story and/or 1 serious story (preferably from your own life) and write down the basics of it. For instance:
The lights during the wedding dance were shining right past the bride and groom and directly onto my husband and I.
Now, take each noun and see if you can add more description to it that makes the story pop (remember not to overdo so people don’t start rolling their eyes).
The blinding lights from the DJ station at the wedding dance shone right past the blissful, (and thankfully, oblivious) bride and groom and directly onto my husband and I, who were sitting ever-so-casually against the far wall.
Now kick it up a notch. No, I don’t mean lie…I mean take what happened and make it worth reading. I’ll do it and then explain how I did it:
The blinding lights from the DJ station at the wedding dance shone right past the blissful, (and thankfully, oblivious) bride and groom and directly onto my husband and I, who were sitting ever-so-casually against the far wall. Staring into those two bright lights, neither one of us could resist…my husband slowly brought his hands, shaped to resemble antlers, to the top of his head as I turned sideways and proceeded to make shadow puppets on the wall.
The real story is…we didn’t make a spectacle of ourselves like it sounds. Everyone was watching the happy couple (we think…these lights really were very blinding so there’s no telling how many were watching us too), and my husband’s antlers and my shadow puppets lasted all of a nano-second. It really wasn’t much of a show. But, kicked up a notch, it makes for a good story.
Now, you try!
2. Be real, but encouraging
What part of my life can I share that my audience can relate to? How can I show the real me without making this the most depressing post ever? What has happened in my life that I have learned from and can share with my audience as a way of encouraging them?
When your reader can relate, they read. When they see themselves, they read. When they find encouragement, they read.
Go back and look over the list of posts from #1 of Creative Writing – The Message. Chances are those posts were more you. What about them spoke of you?
Now, make a list of who you are in real life…what makes you you. This is NOT a list of who you wish to be nor is it a list of all your negative traits. Be real.
Lastly, randomly read a few of your blog posts and consider if your reader is getting a true picture of who you are. Are they edified by what you have to say or does misery love company?
Here’s my take…
My blog posts:
Obviously, what makes my grief posts real is that I really am grieving. I really do miss my little girl, and I really do struggle with so many things pertaining to this grief. It pretty much just pours out of me in these posts. The quiverfull posts are similar. Being quiverfull has not been a simple road. I have walked it with years of no babies and years of many babies. I am passionate about what being quiverfull truly means…”letting God control your family size.” I’ve witnessed first hand how very little we have to do with it, so there is a lot of emotion behind my quiverfull posts.
Who am I?
I tend to be both sarcastic and silly.
I am a thinker and an over-analyzer.
I have a one-track mind when I need something resolved.
I am a reader and a writer.
I love my children and my husband fiercely.
I am reverent in all things pertaining to my faith.
I’m too efficient for my own good sometimes.
I think out loud.
I often have to have the obvious stated to me.
I am forgetful.
I am an introvert married to an extrovert.
and the list goes on and on and on…
I definitely see myself because this blog has always been very Amy-ish (wow, I say that word out loud all the time, but to see it written down, it looks peculiarly like “Amish” doesn’t it?). However, at the other blog (that I no longer use, by the way), I see evidence of someone I don’t know. She is someone who thought she had to sound all put together and polished. She only appeared every now and then, and I even wrote a post about her, but I honestly don’t know who she was and I hope she stays far, far away from this blog!
As for being encouraging…
I know my grief posts are pretty raw at times, but for the most part, I think I manage to avoid being a disparaging mess from beginning to end in most of my posts. The comments I receive from all you lovely readers tell me I’m headed in the right direction.
3. Shock ‘em and then pick ‘em up off the floor
Is there something I can say that will really grab the reader’s attention without overstepping my boundaries?
Have you read The Daily Poop? Sandy knows precisely how to shock a person; however, she doesn’t leave you there all shocked and stupified. She picks you back up and explains things to you like a good slap in the face. (lol…love ya, Sandy!)
Now, shocking your reader doesn’t mean you say something rude or mean. It means you say something off the wall to grab the reader’s attention and then you explain yourself. Hopefully, the next exercise will help you see what I mean…
Take this phrase and build the bare bones of a post around it…(this post can be about anything)
Notice this isn’t some rude, horrible thing to say, but it is something that catches the attention. Your readers are going to read that and think, “What in the world has happened???” So, tell me…what have you had enough of?
(I’m not going to build a post around this because I don’t want anyone inhibited by what I write.)
Today’s Final Exercise:
OK, folks, time to start formulating your posts…you know, the ones you talked about in Part 1 of this course. We’ve got some interesting topics on the table…some serious, some fun, some informative. Start thinking about how to begin your post so that you captivate your reader’s attention.
Part B of this post is coming soon with more ideas on how to grab and keep your reader’s attention! Link up your answers to these exercises and any posts you’ve done that you would like to showcase or have other critique. (Do separate links for each post, please).
Links to other posts in this series:
Part 1 – The Message
THIS POST IS PART 2 -
GRAB THEIR ATTENTION & KEEP IT (A)
Part 3 - Grab Their Attention & Keep It (B)
Part 4 – Choose Your Words Wisely (A)
Part 5 – Choose Your Words Wisely (B)
Part 6 – Wrapping It Up