Enlivening Boring Topics


Bored

Bored by Sn.Ho, on Flickr

I recently joined a Facebook writers’ group, and we are going to write for each other on a weekly basis. This was our first topic. It’s definitely a challenging one! So here are my thoughts on the matter.

The main reason that any topic is boring is because the reader sees no personal connection to it. One of the things I learned in the Faculty of Education was the importance of helping the students make connections, preferably powerful connections as they call it in eduspeak. I threw up a little in my mouth the first time I heard that expression, but I have to admit that it has some validity. So the next time you find yourself needing to write a scintillating piece on mid-range travel gear or health care reform or something equally exciting, take heart. You just need to find the connection between your audience and your topic. It may take a lot of digging, but it has to be there.

Personal stories are probably the best way to go. Where has this duffel bag been? Maybe it climbed Kilimanjaro or knocked around Europe under a train seat. What is it made of? Are there any interesting facts related to its manufacturing? Does it have an international supply chain? That could be interesting to explore. How about a profile of a soccer team that uses these bags? Find out who visits the site (or reads the publication) you are writing for, and try to direct your stories at them. Or maybe your bag is used by the local police department or firefighters? What kind of exciting stories do they have that can be connected to your helpful bag?

Or suppose you have to write about a healthcare reform seminar you went to. Personal stories are gold here. What about a young mother or a frail grandmother, how will health care reform affect their lives? Find out details, and if you can’t find any, imagine a story (just make sure it is clear that you aren’t talking about real people in that case). Could having a premature baby cause a family to lose its house because of medical bills? That is heart-gripping. Talk about ways that catastrophe could be averted, based on what you learned at the seminar. Nobody is going to find that boring. It could take some clever writing to make sure all the information you need to report is connected to your tear-jerker, but if you can pull it off, people will remember your story.

Pictures and video can go a long way towards alleviating boredom. People are generally interested in people; even newborn babies will react to human faces. Have pretty pictures of nice-looking people using your product. Tell a story about them. If, based on the knowledge you acquired about your readers, you can make the pictures and story be similar to their lives, they will probably find it interesting. Alternatively, if you can incorporate a flash of glamour, that will definitely help. Admittedly, if your product was being used by movie stars you probably wouldn’t have to worry about the topic being boring. Nevertheless, if you are imagining a duffel bag going to Italy, it couldn’t hurt to incorporate some beautiful pictures of mountains and antiquities. It doesn’t really matter if they don’t have anything to do with your product except for that connection you just made, as long as it is clear.

Finally, people are intrigued by mystery and suspense. Don’t make it too hard or they will leave; but a bit of a puzzle, a series of cryptic posts leading up to a giveaway, for example, can definitely pique their interest. Hiding Easter eggs somewhere in your story, with some kind of reward (either real or virtual) for finding them can also bring an element of excitement to an otherwise mundane subject.

So, what do you think? How would you tackle writing an interesting story about a boring topic? Do share!

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