This isn’t rocket surgery.
Your readers have brains. And the human brain is inscrutable in many ways, but in one thing it’s gloriously predictable: everybody loves a good story.
A story is its own reward. You catch a piece of it, follow the invisible lines of the narrative, make your own predictions about what’ll happen next, feel the tingle of “I knew it!” or the jolt of “never saw that coming”… it’s like your brain’s running loose on a scavenger hunt. And it loves you for it, like a dog loves you for taking it to the park.
Reward, as far as your brain is concerned, involves releasing chemicals that make you feel happy, excited and keen to do it all over again. This is why people get addicted to things that are not typically thought of as addictive: shopping, sex, books, jogging, the Internet.
We call those “psychological addictions”, but they aren’t all in the addict’s mind. They’re all in the brain, part of the nervous system and undeniably physical.
So, your audience has brains and brains can create addictions. Would you like your readers to keep coming back for more of your blog posts? Here’s how to get them hooked on your writing.
Edit Your Reader’s Brain
Reading a story doesn’t merely light up your brain with the electrical activity that accompanies thought.
It changes the connections in your brain, increasing the connectivity of your somatosensory cortex — the part of your brain that handles physical sensation.
When you read a good story, you literally feel it. Neurons in your brain and nervous system fire as if you were taking part in the story. You get excited or sad or angry along with the protagonist because your brain feels echoes of every sensation the character experiences.
So? Give your reader sensations to experience. Which of these two examples would get you more interested in reading further?
I walked home from the party.
I limped home barefoot from the party, singing to myself while the rain soothed my blisters.
I prefer the second option. It has more sensory content: limping, being barefoot, singing, rain falling, having blisters, being soothed. And it has more implied narrative: why am I barefoot and blistered? Did I dance all night, or get mugged for my shoes?
You Had Me at “Why”
Brains love patterns. Your brain has evolved to spot patterns and react to them in the way it’s learned works best. It also likes to fill in the backstory and guess at the future. If you see “2, 3, 4, 5, 6” your brain’s already filled in a 1 for the past and a 7 for the next step. It’s automatic.
So? Give your reader’s brain a “why” to fill in, and a little room to make their own predictions about where your post’s going.
Then walk them through it and break with their expectations every once in a while. The reward of “I knew it!” is gratifying, but if your reader can predict everything about your post then they might as well stop reading. Keep them guessing to keep them interested.
Of course, first you have to get them to start reading. But that’s another story for another day…
Win a Copy of “Wired for Story”
Today’s prize is a copy of Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron [aff link]. Not just any copy. My copy.
I love this book so much, I want to pass it on to a Be a Freelance Blogger reader who’s keen to learn more about how story works on the human brain. And I’ll get it delivered to you, anywhere in the world.
For your chance to win, do these two things:
- Share this post on Facebook.
- Use the comments box at the bottom of this page to tell me *your* story in no more than 100 words.
I’ll choose the winner at the end of January 4th. Good luck!
This is #15 of 28 daily prize contests. If you’d like to know when a new prize is up for grabs, go here.
Brains image: neil conway