Why do readers suddenly have the attention spans of gnats?
It’s easy to blame writers and suggest their quality of work has declined, but I contend there’s a growing evil sucking attention away from the page. This villain takes many forms.
Facebook, Game of Thrones, the NFL, and Youtube are just a few ways this monster manifests itself. Except this monster has a maker.
I hold responsible the brilliant innovators, creators and storytellers of our generation for producing the most competitive market place for readers’ attention that the world’s ever seen. Fewer and fewer people can make it through an entire page before departing and plugging back into their easy-to-consume content outlets.
This new reality means you must write smarter than ever to seize attention and audience engagement. You must be calculated in how you connect with readers.
7 Easy Ways to Connect with Readers
Fortunately, there are several ways you can quickly jack into the hearts and minds of people. Seven to be exact, unless there’s one or two I forgot due to another cyber-squirrel running across the many screens consuming my life. (I’m looking at you Snapchat, iMessage notifications, this month’s comic book movie installment, the first season of Billions, etc).
Anyway, here are the seven ways you can easily connect with readers and engage them on page one:
1. Pose a promising proposition (or question):
People want you to make them take a stance. They may not confess they want to be challenged, but they do.
In fact, I did exactly this in the first line of this piece. I wanted you to think twice about readers, their attention span, and if gnats actually had an attention span.
2. Breed curiosity:
Readers want you to manipulate their curiosity. They want your words to lead them down a rabbit hole.
Generating the power of wonder, then rinsing and repeating, is what keeps people hooked on your piece. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 does a great job of this.
Opening line: “It was a pleasure to burn.” What’s so fun to burn?
“A house . . . books . . .” Who’s burning this stuff?
“A firefighter . . .” Why’s a firefighter burning down a house instead of saving it?
“Because the burn ignites a fiery smile on his face that never goes away . . .” And so on goes the rabbit hole . . .
3. Drop them into the thick of things:
This is that first date you don’t want to take slow. Go for first base bare minimum and bring readers into the action.
For instance, when you tell a friend about a traffic violation, you don’t say, “I was going to the store, parked, got out, grabbed some Red Vines, checked out at the cashier, and a cop pulled me over. He handed me a speeding ticket, and told me to drive slower.”
Most times you'd just tell a friend, “I got a ticket today!”
Bam, dropped right into the action, skipping the fluff that even your friends don't care about.
4. Get intimate and share something personal:
My best friend no showed my wedding.
My pants malfunctioned in the bathroom.
I’m going to tell you something I’ve never shared with my wife.
Those are just a few opening lines from different posts at my blog. Readers connect when you keep it close. To keep them reading and increase your audience engagement, try opening up and revealing something that won’t get you fired from your job or kicked to the couch.
5. Embrace your oddities and showcase your uniqueness:
I’m fairly certain I’m an alien dressed in a human costume. The Earth is infested with homo sapiens. I’m allergic to the indigenous population.
That’s just one spin on how I wield my weirdness when writing.
You’re laced with your own strangeness and there are people out there who can identify with your oddities. Be brave, embrace your true form, and flaunt those shapes on the page.
6. Trust your voice on the page:
While I strive to satisfy readers, I’d rather be the writer I am than the writer that readers expect me to be.
That’s why I terraform the page one word at a time using my true alien octaves.
Straight up, your friends enjoy your company because of who you are in person, so why try to be someone else on the page? Write with your native tongue. Earthlings appreciate authenticity, and they may call you out if you force a different voice.
7. Trust the reader because they're smarter than you give them credit:
But if that’s true, why do so many writers hand hold people through their blog posts and stories? Why don’t writers permit readers to fill quick beats and small gaps?
Drop the info dumps and cut the cluttered adverbs. They’re not forbidden. They’re just oversaturated.
Get to the point and deliver readers your core message. (This applies to fiction, non-fiction, emails to friends, post-it notes, grocery lists, etc.)
You CAN Connect with Readers
The truth is that you can easily connect with readers. The lie is that audience engagement doesn’t require any effort at all.
The bottom line is, you must be more focused than ever to compete against the Frankenstein-ish entertainment alternatives out there. So which easy way will you use to create your monstrous connection?
What strategies have helped you connect with readers? Let me know in the comments!
Now it’s time to manipulate the minds of mankind.
Choose one of the seven connection techniques above and take fifteen minutes to write something. It can be the first page of a short story or novel, a new blog post, a piece of poetry, or anything your big heart desires.
But when you’re done creating your unique beast, come back, and post it in the comments below to showcase that “It’s alive!”
And if you share, be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers!