When Michael Hyatt speaks, authors listen.
At least this author does.
After all, Hyatt is the Chief Executive Officer of Thomas Nelson Publishers, the largest Christian publishing company in the world and the seventh largest trade book publishing company in the United States. Impressive.
Earlier this week Hyatt tweeted a link to a blog he wrote, “Creating Wow Product Experiences.” (Read it here.) Since I’m always looking for ways to craft better stories, I wondered if his list could be adapted to writing fiction.
(Could a writer coerce reader response? I suppose. Concentration camp reading groups. Bribes tucked in the pages—half now, half when you post a five-star review on Amazon. Banks of solicitors making literary phone threats, I’ll give you thirty seconds to convince me you liked Jack’s latest novel, or else…. Hmm. A topic for another blog?)
Back to Hyatt’s list—
Having divided the list into two categories, I wondered if the lists matched up. That’s when I noticed a seeds and fruit pattern. It took some tweaking, but I came up with five seeds a writer can plant and the accompanying fruit that will produce a WOW experience for the reader—
1. Surprise — Transcendence
Exceed the reader’s expectations. What makes your story different, better than all the other stories on the bookshelves? A unique style? A shocking plot twist? An unforgettable cast of characters? Fresh insight into the human condition? The same old story told the same old way isn’t going to do it. A surprising read creates a sense of awe and wonder.2. Anticipation — Presence
Crank up the anticipation. It creates a sensation of timelessness in the reader’s mind that the present moment is all that exists. This is escapism at its finest, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes moments of fantasy are all that’s keeping us sane. Who would scorn a POW for imaginative escapes from his cage and his captors? Former POWs told of playing invisible pianos, and of imaginary walks on the beach with their wife and children. Reading to escape the stresses of life can be a life saver.
3. Revelation — Clarity
Strengthen the theme. Readers try on characters in a story the same way they try on clothes in a department store. As the life lessons of the story unfold for the characters, the reader suddenly “gets it.” Life is simplified.
4. Resonance — Viral
Touch the heart deeply. When you do, it creates in the reader a craving to share the emotion/moment/insight with someone. That’s how word of mouth—viral marketing—gets started.
5. Universality — Privilege
When the writer crafts stories that transcend time, culture and ethnicity, readers from all walks of life gravitate together in a shared experience forming a community, a privileged society with code words and signs. An example of this is college students who read The Lord of the Rings, or trekkies and the Star Trek phenomenon. May their kind live long and prosper for this is viral marketing in full bloom.
Of course, there is a risk in planting. Not all seed bears fruit. But then, no one ever harvested a crop that was never planted. And readers can't experience WOW moments of transcendent escapism if we don't write them.