Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Beautician and the Writer

A haircut and pedicure can be intellectually stimulating.

Geek girl, fabulous hair!
Because of finances, my last trip to my usual salon was around Thanksgiving, and before that… well, the Thanksgiving before that.  (2010 was a crappy finances year.)  On top of that, the last trip to the salon had my usual beautician, Edna, on maternity leave.

It was good to see her today.  She's, and most of who she works with, are really amazing people - particularly when it comes to social interaction. As an example, it had been over a year and a half since I last saw Edna.  Yet, despite that lapse of time, she still remembered to ask about my pets, my family, my brother.  Now, she sees hundreds, if not more, people regularly.  But she remembered me!

It was by sheer luck my niece had recently reminded me she saw Edna and knew she had been out on maternity leave that I remembered to ask how her new baby was.

Then again, once we got talking, I remembered to ask about her puppy, her family in Colombia, and her husband.

Again, a lapse of over a year and a half… with someone I'd seen maybe every 3-5 months for maybe 2 years before.

As a writer, I find human interaction fascinating.  People who work in service have a special set of characteristics that make them good at what they do.  Remembering conversational details, being able to compliment at just the right time, and finding the balance of a personalized business relationship come easily - or they work hard to make it seem so. 

Another part of the job is making people feel good about themselves.  Now, it sounds almost manipulative to say it like that - but people who do well in these jobs do have that caring personality.  My mom, as an Avon lady, kept notes for herself when her customers were going through rough times - or really good times - so that she remembered to follow up and see how they were doing.  I'm pretty sure Edna doesn't keep a notebook - if she does, I didn't see it, but she kept straight in her head enough information on me where we could continue our personal relationship.  It made me feel better as her client, and it benefits her because I request her over and over, and I do my best to tip properly.

Being aware of this kind of relationship helps a writer on two levels.  In the craft, it's a great study of dialogue and professional relationship.  There's only so much time during a salon visit or an Avon call, how do you communicate these tiny, personalized details so that you can establish a relationship so quickly?  This is important for introducing readers to our characters and giving our characters good dialogue.

On the business end, paying attention to this kind of concentrated and powerful communication helps us with our queries and pitches - make someone fall in love with your book in 2-3 sentences.  Also, this is a great networking technique.  If follow an agent's blog and can remember that s/he just made a sale, open a conversation by congratulating that sale.  It's a small detail, but it's personal and it makes the person feel good about themselves.  If an agent is sharing information on their blog, it's an ongoing conversation and you're welcome to kindly continue it.  The key is "kindly."  Human beings want to feel good about themselves, so making someone feel good about it - and really meaning it - opens up more chances for a positive conversation or interaction. 

Some networking groups I've been to suggest writing a memorable hint on the back of someone's business card.  That's all fine and well, but you really don't want to be fumbling for someone's business card during a conversation.  Make a point to remember something positive about that person you're speaking with that you might be able to mention in future conversations.

Returning to your story, what are the most important points in your main character's life during your story?  You should be able to have just one or two things that stand out, and those ought to be a major part of your plot.  (If you have more than one or two things that are UTTERLY IMPORTANT, you may need to go back to your craft.  Check out the Storyfix blog for great advice on that.)  If you were meeting your main character in person, what would you bring up in a conversation?  Use these things in your pitch or query - just as if you were introducing a close friend to a new acquaintance that you hope might be a positive connection for your friend.

I can haz cute feetsies?
Thanks to Edna, not only do I have fabulous hair on my head, lack of hair where I want a lack of hair, and adorable beach feet (take a look - this doesn't happen often!), I have some new ideas on how to crafty my query for Kelpie. 

I totally needed this spa day!


A Novel Friend © 2008 by para Você | Re-design Sweet Baby Girl