Did you see that great ad? The one that made you want to drop everything and go purchase that nifty plunger for your clogged toilet?
Me neither. But if you did, I bet that ad appealed to your sense of desire, affection, self-interest or any combination of those.
We humans are such basic creatures. We don’t even know it, but ask anyone who works in a hospital. They’ll tell you. It’s all about cups and blankets. Again, desire, affection, self-interest. You want that cup or blanket now; not for you, perhaps for someone you love because helping them will make you happy. The cups and blankets don’t need advertising, though a sign should probably be put up to steer you in the right direction so that you stop harassing nurses who are too busy saving patients’ lives in overcrowded emergency rooms to get one for you. Just an example.
My point is that people, you and me and everybody else out there, are driven, motivated and inspired by greed, love and egocentricity.
I’d like to assert here that these three catalysts of our behaviour are exactly what we look for in a story. Said another way, a story that lacks the tension created by greed, love and egocentricity is not a story at all. We read because we enjoy the controlled setting of adventure that a story offers us. We can join Robinson Crusoe and Peter Pan, Anne of Green Gables and Jay Gatsby, you name it. They’ll interest us because what drives them are the same things that drive us.
You might not write advertisements for plungers and you might not write stories for children, but at some point you will need to write to someone to get a point across. And if you want to be convincing you just might want to remember to appeal to what the person your writing to wants. Remember, it’s all about them – their desire, their affection, their self-interest.
At the end of the day, paradoxically, both advertising and fiction can teach us this – life is not about us.