If you watched the Super Bowl yesterday, you probably noticed there was a flurry of over the top, I can’t believe this is on network TV, my kids are in the room commercials. I’m conservative in my entertainment preferences, I know, but I was underwhelmed at the commercials this year.
For the most part.
As always, there is the Budweiser Clydesdale for the win (or as a friend of mine said, Warhorse in less than a minute). The this year featured on of my favorite storytellers.
When I saw that name pop up on the screen, I paid attention. I used to spend afternoons, working with my dad on construction sites, excited if I was in the truck at the time Harvey’s voice would introduce “The rest of the story.” Even as a kid, I thought these were amazing. The way he would weave just enough personal details into the story to make me care about the character, often nameless so that the listener would stay listening, wanting to know whose rest of the story was being told.
He was the ultimate storyteller, as clear by the fact that he started the series in May 1976 and the series ran until February 2009. That meant, in a world where people want entertainment to be fast and in your face and now, he could still have success telling stories his way. He honed his craft, the pace of his delivery, arranging the facts in such a way that the story unfolded in our minds just as he wanted.
There are many writers, published or not, who are working to break into the industry. I would argue that Paul Harvey holds several hints at how. He had a unique speaking voice, one that anyone who heard him more than once would recognize again, but he was true to the voice he had. If you listen to the early broadcasts or the late, he still sounds the same (digital quality aside). The voice in our writing has to be unique as well, but still true to who we are. Harvey knew how to give just enough information at just the right time to keep us wanting to know. If hints are given too early in a piece, our readers are going to turn away because the puzzle is obvious. And when the story was done, it was done. Over the top, flowery language doesn’t improve a story (ever read something where the author was paid by the word?). Details are essential, but there is a fine line between just enough and too much.
What are you doing, in your writing, to hook your audience? How do you make sure you deliver after that hook? Did you listen to Paul Harvey growing up?