Education

Keep Readers Planted In Their Seats, Using Seeds Of Curiosity

He was bigger than me. Stronger. And more aggressive. And not surprisingly, he was thrashing me about the patchy lawn like a pinata. But instead of feeling terror or trepidation, I was becoming progressively more enraged at my bullying classmate. As bystanders looked on amused by his antagonistic antics, he laughed!
In that moment, I remembered the story of David and Goliath. How did things turn out for the little guy in that one? Oh yeah, David slew the giant by putting out the big oaf’s eye. But I had no sling! And even if I did, I probably wouldn’t know what to do with it. All I had were two puny, ineffectual fists.
That’s why what happened next would forever shape the way I looked at conflict…
Leave Your Audience Hanging… Just a Little
“So,” you may be wondering. “What did happen next?” “Did the bully do us a favor and pulverize this guy or what?” But the last thing I want to do is give away the outcome. That’s because the beginning of that story is there solely to sow a seed — a “seed of curiosity” in the mind of readers, to get them to stick with this entire article.
Curiosity serves as a cool tool when you need to communicate an idea that requires a lot of explanation. Like say, for instance, if you wanted to get someone to sign up for a seminar, give to your charity, or try a mail order product.
Once you’ve read about “seeds of curiosity,” I’m pretty sure you’ll start noticing them in advertisements and elsewhere. More importantly, you’ll have acquired a potent ingredient for writing your own irresistible copy, no matter what its purpose.
Well-Known Advertising “Secret”
In the interest of giving credit where due, I first heard the phrase “seeds of curiosity” while reading the book Advertising Secrets of the Written Word, by copywriting king Joseph Sugarman. He explained the power of arousing people’s curiosity as a way to keep them transfixed by your message until you’re done explaining it. We humans have a natural need to want closure, finality, and completion in the things we experience. You can exploit that natural longing in the pieces you write.
Think about it, our movies and TV shows typically have a beginning, middle, and end. Unless a book is really bad, we attempt to finish it and feel a little uneasy if we don’t. We start home improvement projects and feel a great sense of pride (and relief) when we finish them. And a sense of failure when we don’t.
In the pieces you write, whether they be short stories, or long-form sales letters, the last thing you want to do is serve up something predictable and linear. Bo-or-ing. Our readers don’t “do” boring. Look at the most successful and riveting movies — sure they center on the main character’s story, but what makes them truly engaging is the presence of a back story, a subplot, and even a historical context. They all lend the story, even a fictional one, a sense of realism, or “verisimilitude.”
And so it is when you plant the seed of a mystery at the outset of your writing. After the seed is planted, you continue with the body of your copy, pointing out benefits and features of interest. All of these things you point out will support your main idea, which is that you — dear fellow writer — can enrich, energize, or entertain your reader enough so that it’s worth his or her while to do as you ask.
Delivering Your Finale
OK, so they’ve made it almost to the end. It’s time to reward the reader for following along faithfully and patiently. Time for the payoff, the money shot. Time for the curiosity seed to sprout.
Which brings me back to that day I was getting whupped by a guy who still had his baby teeth. “Bobby” was what they today would call a “hard target.” Punches glanced off his roly-poly body like raindrops off a cormorant. Grappling with him would have been suicidal. Like David the sling-miester, I went strategic, and decided to go for an eye.
My nemesis closed in to give me another shove, but I struck like a rattlesnake before he could lay on even a finger. My knuckles, puny as they were, made a direct connect with squishy eyeball. Bobby’s right eye exploded in pain — if his shrieks were any indicator.
In geopolitics and in business, we’ve often heard the phrase “might is right.” At least that’s what I’d heard in my household growing up. The big dog gets the bone — always. But my direct experience had just proven otherwise: Even the big dog has at least one weakness. And the little dog can have many strengths — the ability to use tactics and strategy that give the little dog leverage.
Seeds of curiosity are a tactic you can use to leverage your strengths against bigger, better-established, and well-entrenched competitors. So time to get planting!

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