Your reader is a shiny metal toy racing car who feels a need for speed

Ever read anything by George Saunders? His short story collection, Tenth of December, is one of the best out there (with multiple cool awards to prove it).

Saunders’ writing has a knack for exceptional pacing, never getting caught in a traffic jam of yawner phrases, sleeper sentences or semi-comatose paragraphs.

WE. DID. NOT. SEE. THAT. COMING.

Last year, he spoke at a writing conference I attended and proved as engaging in person as in print, never giving listeners a chance to start doodling, people-watching or thinking about that night’s dinner-and-movie plans. He was funny when the audience expected serious and poignant when we were readying for the next one-liner.

He also shared his secret, the guiding metaphor that drives his writing (and speaking) forward: Hot Wheels.

YOUR READER AS SHINY METAL CAR

Yup, those Hot Wheels. Saunders likes to think of his reader as the shiny metal car and his writing as the orange track down which the reader races. Whenever he feels momentum slowing, he inserts the written equivalent of an acceleration station, one of those toy buildings with mechanically spinning wheels that are included in any classic Hot Wheels set.

No matter how slowly the car enters, it hurtles down the track like a missile after reaching those spinning wheels.

METAPHOR IN MOTION

What are the writing equivalents of an acceleration station? It might be an unexpected flip of phrase. It could be a parenthetical expression (consider this exhibit A) dropped deftly into the middle of a longish sentence. Maybe even a metaphor—like, say, a Hot Wheels acceleration station—that no one saw coming.

Basically, whatever rewards your readers for sticking with you and rockets them forward.

BUT PRESS RELEASES?

One more point: These stations are not just for conversational writing like this post. You can and should install acceleration stations in everything from white papers to press releases.

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