Hope you all had a great weekend. I did. A little frustrating though…nothing bad (well, maybe I’ll leave that up to you to decide)…
(And I didn’t mean calling people on the phone, by the way).
Let’s get to it.
The weekly shopping trip was yesterday (and yes there were comics in the paper).
I’m usually accustomed to building things up, but here it is:
I bought a smartphone.
It’s a funny story, but I didn’t realize the more interesting parts were to happen after I bought the phone itself.
Anyway, I went to the store, picked up the piece of cardboard (called a “phone chit,” don’t ask me why—I just read this stuff) that matched the phone I wanted to buy. The guy who was helping me goes back to get a phone box, shows me that they match—then tells me I can’t touch the phone (basically) until it’s paid for.
So he goes over to the self-checkout scanner to start things up for me. After that stalls, he moves to a second one, and then the first one is ready to go (kinda like spinning plates 8 at a time—that’s where we seemed to be headed). Things got straightened out, and the phone rings up $49.99 (a lot more than the advertised $19.99).
But I scanned my store card, and $30 came off, just like that. So the total came to…
A little under $22.
Not bad, not bad at all—especially for a video recorder, a better camera, and tons more memory. And double especially, since I saw the same phone at Target for $79.99 that same day.
Anyhow, I didn’t want to lose the number (or the 2800+ units) on my flip phone. So I called up the phone people to see what I could do to get things shifted over (I researched it before, and it can be done—I’d just never done a dry run myself).
It’d be faster if you were on your current phone, the automated, robot-voiced lady said. So all right.
Things would’ve been fine, if my current phone hadn’t hung up in the middle of the call—as I was telling a robot-voiced dude what number I wanted to transfer over.
Back to the land line, and I got it done. It’s supposed to take up to 24 hours to transfer—then my flip phone will die (not to be dramatic—that’s what I call it when stuff won’t work anymore). Sad really.
That transfer is still going on. So I got to work using the phone.
After trying to use the voice-command thing, I almost called an uncle of mine who lives up in Wisconsin, and activated Google Hangouts. Oh, and I took a couple pictures of a door (probably badly), and tested out the voice recorder.
I got my contacts put in there (I like typing sideways, but using only my thumbs feels a little weird), and the “clack-clack” typing makes is a little odd, too. But I’ll get used to that.
And playing MP3 files.
And if the phone needs wi-fi to complete the transfer, I’ll have to do something about that (like plan a “necessary” trip to Dunkin’ Donuts). But apparently to get the app from Google Play that tracks the units on the phone, I do need wi-fi.
Maybe I can pick up a few doughnut holes, or some coffee (which I’ll probably give away. No, not that. Who would give doughnut holes away? Well, maybe some of ’em).
What does me being sidetracked by a smartphone have to do with writing, marketing, or any of that?
Plenty—it’s just that I’m a potential reader, and the phone is your marketing piece, email, story, or what-have-ya.
Let’s start with you fiction writers, though. For you, your characters, and your setting, everything is normal. So what if fire is illegal, trees are covered in chrome, everyone lives only until 1,854, and they get absorbed into those chrome trees to brighten the landscape?
Everybody knows that.
Your readers don’t know that. But if you wrote the above story, you do. So your readers have to be shown (and told, depending on how much time/space you have for your story) that this is real. Even though it’s imagined–to those characters it’s real, remember?
How to do that?
You make the unfamiliar, familiar.
Your characters are in this world, day in, day out. Same fights, same food, same everything. Same disasters, even. Just like school/work, down time, going to bed, and doing it all over again.
What have they gotten used to?
What if a girl doesn’t want to be burned to ash and smeared on the chrome-covered tree in the center of town?
It’s all really strange, isn’t it? If you’re outside looking in.
The girl who’s frustrated—being upset is very familiar.
With the phone and me, things were similar—except for playing with someone else’s smartphone a little bit, I had no real clue what owning a smartphone is really about. Just like readers know that books and stories exist, but don’t know what YOURS is about.
Which is why you have to show readers why the characters’ struggles matter. If it’s a strange situation, why doesn’t the character give up and walk away? Answer that, and readers probably won’t walk away.
But you have to start by making the unfamiliar, familiar (something I’d covered in another post).
People are people (unless they’re aliens). They have their reasons. And hangups. Readers do understand that. It’s your world and your characters’ problems that may be foreign.
And you can subtract, change, add, or morph any aspect of society to come up with a setting and part of a plot (a lot of times we do that here on Fridays, for Triple F. If you’ve never been, consider swinging by).
Start with the familiar, slip in the unfamiliar (because characters KNOW their own world, and some of the “whys” of its and their problems), and readers will come along (and if they don’t, that’s what editing is for).
Oh, and your characters might have to go through the unfamiliar/familiar thing too—especially with science fiction, mysteries, and all the unexplainable what-have-ya out there. Sometimes they have no clue what’s going on. Why would they want to find out.
And for you marketers or copywriters out there, prospects and clients don’t know you either. People understand problems, and depending on how old (or young) they are, they’ll also understand certain other things you can use to reach out to them—to get them interested in what you have to say.
All with the intent to educate, inform, and/or persuade them that they have a problem you can solve, or help with. Even in a small way.
But it starts with them relating to you in a familiar way (there’s that familiar/unfamiliar thing again).
Which starts with the subject line and opener for the email, or the headline for a sales letter.
And all of that starts with telling a good story. A story that means something, to someone.
Next time you’re stuck for a story for a fiction piece, email, or what-have-ya, just remember me and my new smartphone, all right? Make the unfamiliar, familiar. Drop us into the action, and let us sew the details together.
(And yes, I accidentally used a fingernail to touch my smartphone’s screen—just once).
Until next time,