November 27, 2009
Every year my mom makes Chex mix for Thanksgiving. More than the turkey, the stuffing or the pies, Chex mix is what says Thanksgiving for me. It’s a simple trigger where the first mouthful connects me to all of the Thanksgivings in the past.
What are the triggers you’re providing for your readers?
Connect with your reader. Think of what you know about your reader. Who are they? What do they like? How old are they? What experiences do they share?
You wouldn’t ask a kid if they remember the first time they saw "The Wizard of Oz" in color because they didn’t grow up with Black and White tv’s. For them "The Wizard of Oz" was always in color.
Are you writing a computer programming book for people new to programming? That’s very different than if you are writing a book on a language or framework for people who are experienced programmers but new to the technology you’re describing. In my Cocoa book I can mention objects, variables and for-loops confident that these trigger specific notions for my readers.
You also need to create new triggers. It’s like that dish that someone brings to Thanksgiving one year and it was so good that now you serve it every year. Six years later it’s one of those "we always serve that at Thanksgiving" foods.
You can’t set out to create a new tradition. You just write great examples that resonate with your readers and you wait and listen. You capture an idea in a simple story or phrase. Express it clearly and give it a name like "DRY" or the overused "stone soup". You’ll know you’ve created a new tradition when you see the name used as shorthand in tweets, blogs, and other books.
You can’t control what other people will pick up on—you can make sure that you give them material worth adopting and repeating. Whip up your literary batch of Chex Mix today and set a bowl out on the table.
This post originally appeared in the Pragmatic Life blog.