By Kathleen Y’Barbo
Now that I commute for my job, I love listening to podcasts. I can thank my daughter for this habit, as she’s the one who told me I should give them a try.
Most of the time, I listen to writing-related podcasts. My list isn’t particularly long, but I do have a few favorites. Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn Podcast and Jim Rupard and Thomas Umstattd, Jr’s Novel Marketing Podcast come to mind. For the lesson I learned yesterday, I blame the latter pair whose podcast How to Stand Out When Your Name Fits In decidedly did not apply to an author whose last name is Y’Barbo!
So I clicked past my favorites to the ever-interesting TED talk podcast. If you don’t know about TED talks-the acronym stands for Technology, Education, and Design–do yourself a favor and research them. There are a plethora of topics and talks to choose from, and most are in podcast, video and print. Often there is only one speaker who talks on his or her topic of interest. If you can’t find something to research here, you’ll certainly find an interesting character or two. It’s writer candy, I promise!
The talk I landed on was called Framing the Story and there were multiple authors whose TED talks had been put together in a montage of thoughts on story. The first author was an African woman with a beautifully lilting voice who spoke of the depth of her love for reading and how it took stories with characters who looked and sounded as she did for her to develop that love. In essence, she was a reader but she didn’t love reading until someone touched her deeply and made her care.
Then came Andrew Stanton, a Pixar executive who has spent more than two decades writing and producing stories for the movie giant. His talk, The Essence of Story, is a longer, separate podcast and is worth finding and reading in transcript format so as to better savor the many great points he makes. Ultimately, however, he too says one thing matters above all when telling a story: make me care.
How do we as writers rise to that challenge? In a world where books are cheap or free and choices abound for readers, how do we make our readers stop shopping around for their next book and read ours?
Make them care.
It is as simple and as difficult as that. Studies show a book must capture a potential reader’s attention within the first few pages-sometimes paragraphs-or the reader will move on to the next book. However, even if the opening scene is impossible to ignore, the reader won’t stick around unless the characters and the story they are living compel the reader to stay.
When story people with unique personality traits, quirks and secrets are woven into a tale with other unique story people whose goals are in conflict, something magic happens. Characters rise to the occasion and the plot takes on a life of its own. Best of all, readers stick around to see what’s going to happen next.
So the moral of the story, or in this case, of the storytelling? Make me care!
Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo, winner of Romantic Times Inspirational Romance of 2014, is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee than two million copies of her sixty books in print. A tenth-generation Texan and certified paralegal, her nominations include Career Achievement and Readers Choice Award nominations. Find out more at www.kathleenybarbo.com.