Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Are Your Readers Lovin' It

by Dave Butler

logo copyrighted to McDonald's corporation
I worked at McDonald’s once.  Okay, I worked at McDonald’s twice, but I mean that once upon a time, when I worked at McDonald’s, something happened that I will now relate to you.  My shift manager was putting me through my initial training and she said something innocuous like: “the food has to be high quality or customers won’t come back.”

I was full of myself.  Okay, I am still full of myself, but I mean that was already true at the time of the story I am telling you, and that matters because it explains what I said next: “no,” I said, “that isn’t right.  Customers will come back if we make them happy.  It doesn’t necessarily matter how we made them happy, only that we did.”

She didn’t fire me.  But that’s not the point of the story. Here’s the point of the story, writing is just like working at McDonald’s - You have to make people happy.

So you hear about a lot of techniques and structural points: hooks, sympathetic characters, getting your protagonist in trouble early, unusual metaphors, varied dialog tags, etc., whatever it is.  These (and others) are all valid and useful tools, but they are like the QSC principles (quality, service cleanliness) of McDonald’s.  They all get to the same end, they all boil down to this: you have to make your readers happy from the start, and keep them happy through the book.  (By happy I really mean paying attention or engaged—in some genres, you want your readers frightened from the start, or twitterpated.)  Don’t discard traditional tools and structures simply because they are traditional, and don’t be afraid to attempt something different, as long as you bear in mind that you are trying to make your readers feel like the time they spent with your book was worth it, right up to the end.  Whatever writing and editing decisions you make that successfully achieve that objective are the right decisions.

1 comment:

  1. Very good. And I agree with you. Working at your craft to make others like it, or to be happy is a perfect solution to making you happy too.