How’s your week going so far? Good, I hope.
I was in the post office the other day to pay the internet bill. Everything was going fine, until the guy at the counter said,
“I’d like to ask you some questions.”
Mind you, I figured it was because I put a stamp on the wrong side of the envelope or something.
He actually wanted to ask me about the people I get internet from.
So I told him what he wanted to know, as well as I could make it, and then I left to go about the rest of my day.
Then that got me thinking…
There’s things in here I could pull out to help me in my fiction and email writing, for sure.
Here we go:
Be prepared, but never assume. For fiction writers, this can help by knowing what your world and characters are about, and picking what to reveal (not to mention making characters curious–if they’re into that kind of thing).
For copywriters, it’d be something like doing your research on your client or client’s clients (kind of like a character sketch), but always being willing to tweak stuff. Just because people act in a certain way for certain reasons, doesn’t mean those reasons can’t change. It also doesn’t mean those reasons make sense to everyone else, all the time, either. It’s kinda like coming up with a single reason why people buy something–a lot of times it’s because they have an issue that your product or service helps them out with.
Other times not (especially with things that are wants, but not needs).
Expect the unexpected. This feeds into the first one a little bit, but I want to hit it from a different angle…
There are simply some things you can’t be prepared for (like having someone talk personal stuff to you who’s only talked business the previous 10 times you were there). I supposed I could have anticipated this would eventually happen, but the way it came up kinda threw me a bit–especially because, as a man, there are times I can be a little, shall we say, “task focused.”
For fiction writers, if you’re expecting the unexpected, you want to think of your readers as super-brilliant folks who are doing that too. That goes triple for characters, depending on their background, or what-have-ya, especially if they’re known for planning stuff.
Throw your characters and readers a curve, a wrinkle, the old pipe wrench (or a monkey wrench or a spanner, depending on where you’re from). Just make sure you deal with things in line with how the character would react, and if you don’t, to be super-clear on the reasons why.
Treat every occasion as an opportunity to learn. The post office guy told me he had two kids, and that when they came over and got on his network, it kinda slowed to a crawl (my interpretation of his agreement with a situation I tossed out).
I wouldn’t have known any of that if Monday afternoon hadn’t played out the way it did. Something simple.
Whether you write copy, fiction, or both, you can treat every situation in your life (and the people you run into), exactly that way. Come up with stories about people you see. If someone tells you details about themselves, weave a story around it if you don’t know the details. In my case, I would be asking why the post office dude’s kids come over to his house–how old are they? Are they adopted? Has a divorce been involved? All of those issues weren’t discussed–“two kids” was about all I got.
As a copywriter, I would be asking myself how my product or service could help him and his kids with their slow network problems (which means I would have to be a rep for an ISP, but that’s another story–unless they do a referral bonus thing).
So whenever you get stuck for ideas, subject lines, plots, or what-have-ya, remember that potential ideas are everywhere–even the post office.
Until next time,