We write what we know with non-fiction.
In fiction we spin our knowledge through the eyes of a fictional character. We use suspense to hold our audience's attention. We dazzle them with cliff-hangers and transitions. Some writers even put us on edge, make us hold our breath, ie., James Patterson, Stuart Woods and Lee Child to name a few. Others baffle us with mystery . ..but is there an equally effective way to better engage the reader in non- fiction?
Of course, there is. I'm about to show you. Remember , I promised. I'm also going to show you how to fully engage the reader's emotions.
Ask the right question as I have done, above.
Relevant questions prevent the mind from rambling. A relevant question readily demands the attention of a niche- audience no matter who asked.
Relevance is like a bright light in the eyes of deer.
If you know your business you will recall relevant questions with little thought.
Now that you have us, tell us in a short sentence why the content is important to us based on your own related experiences.
Share related past experiences, detailed in the way that you felt during the experience. Humanize the material.
In fiction, the protagonist push the reader's emotions. In non-fiction, you, the writer, are the hero.
Now, that you have the floor, give something and promise something...to be given in a moment but it had better be good. This need not be contrived. Just give what you promise.
Now, give them the benefits of your mistake. Explain in detail how to avoid that mistake. For example, give several reasons why people should listen to/read your content.
Especially, highlight the most embarassing mistakes you can speak of, relevant to the prevailing instruction. We learn more from failure than from success. We remember our terrible mistakes, vividly. Teach your audience how you made the mistake. Which rules did you violate? How did you feel?
They may laugh or cry or even emphathize with your experience. In fiction, our hero/heroine performs the task of reeling them in. In real life (non-fiction), you are that heroine.
For example, in my Spanish book, I pointed out several embarrasing attempts to speak the language when learning Spanish in high school. I asked a particular Latina girl if I could walk her home from school and carry her books.
"Si. Se tiene que hablar con mis Padres."
She said, "Yes, but you need to speak with my....?"
I didn't remember the word for parents, so...I...thought...priest.
Can you imagine?
The first rule in language is listening. I violated that rule, grossly butchering a potential romance, contorting the face of her father when I explained in Spanish that his daughter and I needed to speak to a priest.
The entire home grew silent and she kindly explained my confusion of the two words. Everyone saw the humor except her father who looked on as he rubbed his chin, considering if irony was in my statetement. He was a bulky man who could have wrestled bears for a living.
His face alone motivated me to get it right.
When we listen, intelligence considers spoken words, tone of voice, body language, surrounding circumstances, etc. That's one reason why we can sometimes follow along and help people who speak a foreign language when we know little. We know people.
Intelligence puts the puzzle together.
Here's a working thought: share your current experiences with you readers, relevant to what you teach in your own areas of expertise.
It is especially important to express to your audience exactly how you learned. You own the experience, the subject and the copyright. You are branding your intellectual properties.
This exercise rewards both the artist and the audience with the ability to state the jist of material in a single sentence. Another ensuing reward is therefore, one of crystallized focus.
Stop and develop a few pertinent questions of your own.
You have learned to engage your reader more.
1. Ask a relevant and timely question.
2. Why is your content important?
3. Give and promise.
4. Give remaining benefits.
5. Summarize in a single sentence.