Writing Right with Dmitri: Digging Up the Obscure, and Making It Interesting
Okay, quick question: what's the real difference between an encyclopedia article and an Edited Guide Entry? Ideally?
Simple. An encyclopedia article is one you read because you looked it up. In other words, you already wanted to know that. You chose to find it. An Edited Guide Entry, on the other hand, is supposed to make you want to read it. It's supposed to tell you something you didn't already know you wanted to know.
How do we do that? By making it so darned interesting the punters can't help reading it. We want them to say, as 2legs has said to me, 'I was finished reading that before I knew it.' Yeah, like that.
Ways to make the obscure riveting:
- Make it relevant to today's experience. Any of you watch the Canadian series, Murdoch Mysteries? They did a detective story based on a murderous telegrapher. They slyly related it to cyber romance. The episode, set in 1898, was called 'Murdoch.com'.
- Make it funny, funny, funny. Keep the jokes coming, at least one a paragraph.
- Build in suspense. What lies around the corner? Holding breath…
- Figure out what interests the reader, not you. Talk about that, not yourself.
- Lead with the most startling/unusual/intriguing part of the tale. Don't bury the lead.
- Stick to the subject, and don't wander all over the place, like I do in the Oddity column.
Okay, that's easy, right? Like falling off a log. We do it all the time, right?
So: here's my challenge for you. Find a weird factoid or anecdote, and tell it in an interesting way. Limit: 500 words, give or take. No, 'give or take' does NOT mean a thousand. It means 'give or take 50', okay?
- A strange local legend from somewhere.
- An odd fact most people don't know.
- A goofy etymology.
- A weird piece of historical gossip.
Now, write this up, and put the link or the text in the space below. Okay? If you've got a pic, link to it.
What are we going to do with these? You'll see. But only if we get together and post them. Then we can discuss the next step. Otherwise, I'm taking my idea to the grave.
Now, do I have your attention?