Once More, With Feeling
All writing is essentially manipulation—the author is trying to get his or her audience to feel a certain way. It could be about a product, a political candidate, some sort of social cause, or to develop sympathy for a certain character or situation. For the most part, people don’t feel like they are being manipulated. When you watch a sad movie, for example, you don’t usually feel like you have been duped into crying. When you read a thriller, you feel compelled to keep reading long into the night. Not because the author forced you to but because you are invested in the story and curious about the outcome.
At work, I have to write in an enthusiastic, but not necessarily emotional, manner. For the most part, I attempt tosway people toward whatever it is I am trying to pique their interest in. Copywriters who are good at striking the right emotional note with their words are as effective as those salespeople who say they can sell ice to an Eskimo. The only real difference between us is that salespeople interact with their customers and I sit in front of a computer screen all day. I also am not always familiar with the items I have to write about, which can make things a little more interesting.
Sometimes it is hard to put that confident salesman voice away when I am writing for myself. When I find myself using many of the same words I use at work constantly, I know I have gone too far and need to check myself. It ends up sounding like I am selling my characters instead of trying to establish empathy for them. Other times, my writing is flat because I try too hard to reign it in. Then I overcompensate for that sales pitchy quality I need for work, and it reads like an instruction manual written by a robot. That’s why it is so important for me to reread everything I write and refine it—it takes work for me to strike a happy balance between pitch-y and authentic.
Because that is the goal we should all be striving for, right? Authentic writing. Readers have to believe that the worlds we describe are actual, plausible places. Our characters need to be envisioned as flesh and blood, breathing and speaking. Even if we write science fiction and create entirely new species and planets, our audience has to find enough to identify with or we will lose them. It does not matter if it is the tiniest glimpse, once your readers catch on to that real-ness, they will latch on and find purchase within the footholds of your story.
Am I the only one who has this problem when they write? Do you find yourself reading over what you have already committed to paper and telling yourself, “Once more, with feeling?”