By Roy H. Williams
Toward the end of last week’s Monday Morning Memo I promised, “Next week I’ll teach you how to increase the magnetism of a message by referring to unseen action.” Mischievously, I preceded that statement with a subtle example of the very thing.
Do you remember the quote that preceded my promise? “Thoughts are the threads that bind us to deeds. Deeds are the ropes that bind us to habits. Habits are the chains that bind us to destiny.’ – inscription carved on the West Wall at the palace in Maygassa”
Where is Maygassa? Who carved the quote? How large is it written? How long has it been there? These are the questions that immediately spring to mind, right? By referring to an unseen act – an event in an untold story – a writer stimulates curiosity, elevates interest and heightens awareness.
Are these things you’d like to know how to do?
A famous paragraph written by Ernest Hemingway opens by saying, “They shot the six cabinet ministers at half-past six in the morning against the wall of a hospital. There were pools of water in the courtyard.”
“What cabinet ministers of what country, for what crime, or for what historical movement, and with what justice, or with what miscarriage of justice, we are never told… these elements were rigorously excluded from the writer’s art, in order to intensify the descriptions of pure pain and horror.” – Maxwell Geismar, July 1, 1962
Another quote mentioned last week was taken from The Engines of God. Here’s a second one (p.271) from that same book, lifted from the diary of Janet Allegri, “I’ve been thinking a lot about my life the last few days, and I have to say that it doesn’t seem to have had much point. I’ve done well professionally, and I’ve had a pretty good time. Maybe that’s all you can reasonably ask. But tonight I keep thinking about things not done. Things not attempted because I was afraid of failing. Things not got around to. Thank God I had the chance to help Hutch throw her foamball. I hope it gets out. It’s something I’d like to be remembered for.”
“Thank God I had the chance to help Hutch throw her foamball.”
Who is Hutch? Why did she throw a foamball? Who did she aim it at? Why did she need help throwing it? What is a foamball, anyway?
And aren’t you just a bit curious about Janet Allegri and what else might be hiding in that diary?
Dang. I did it to you again.
Referring to an event in an untold story is a powerful technique, rarely used. Most writers just don’t have the guts.
Here’s a radio script written by the great Adam Donmoyer in which he obliquely refers to a couple of untold stories. See if they don’t leap off the page and bang you on the snout:
Do you remember what it was like before you met her? Seriously, do you remember all those girls who seemed okay at first, but later – whoa! But now you’re beginning to understand what they mean by “happily ever after,” right? Do you have any idea how many guys are out there still lookin’ for exactly what you have? Don’t screw this up, man. Remember what happened to Leeroy. You need to think about lifting up the top of an engagement ring box while you’re down on one knee. That’s really not such a scary idea when you imagine that it’s her you’re giving it to, right? The scary part is shopping for a diamond. You don’t want to go swimming in those shark-infested waters. No, no, no. You want to go where it’s happy and safe. You want to go to Preston’s [Guitar Stinger] Rocks. No pressure, no hassle. Just great prices, the hottest styles of engagement rings and financing if you need it. They don’t call us Preston’s Rocks [Guitar Stinger] for nothing. We do diamonds better than anybody, because diamonds are all we do. Back behind the Arby’s on 96th, just west of I-69.
If you’d like to hear that radio ad in its final form, just go to http://www.MMMemo.com/PrestonsAd.htm. And don’t forget to bang the wonkus.