Sunday, April 11, 2010

Curious About Curiosity? How to Make People Curious

Do you know when and how you get curious about something? Why should you care? If you want to make other people pay attention to what you have to say, you better know how to hook & reel them in. And one of the most effective ways of keeping their attention is to make them curious.

So when do we get curious?

Common experience tells us that we get curious when we encounter something new, or surprising, or perplexing. But think of the times when you got intensely curious about some conversation between total strangers in the next table at a restaurant, or some secret your friend was withholding from you. Surely, these aren't new, surprising, or perplexing.

These and many more are instances when we feel intensely curious.

Is there a common theme underlying all these divers phenomena?

Do we say, "We get curious when we see something new, surprising, perplexing, strange, secretive, gossipy, hard to remember, etc.?"

That seems to be an awfully clunky and unsatisfactory answer.

Rest assured, there is an elegant answer. Once you know it, it becomes easy to predict what makes people curious, deliberately induce curiosity in people, and keep their attention.

Curious about curiosity now?

About time.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Murakami's Mystery: Why is He So Fascinating?

1Q84. It's a strange book.

The book doesn't have a plot synopsis anywhere - you know, the kind that goes something like, "X, the son of Z, begins a journey of unforgettable atrocity when he discovers that..." Worse yet, the book title looks like it's about a low IQ.

And yet the book is written by my favorite author, Haruki Murakami, and you know when it's by this quirky guy, you're in for a wild ride. So everyone seems to agree. The book literally disappeared from bookstores on the day it was published in Japan. Half a year later, I sat down with the book and read it, and it was good. I enjoyed being steeped into his world that my heart actually raced in excitement every time I opened it. I couldn't put it down. I read late into the night and couldn't wait to read the next part when I did put it down. I even fell in a state of despair when I learned that the story didn't end by Book II and the next installment was to come out in five months. And I bet Book III will disappear from stores faster than Louis Vuiton bags on sale.

 So, I want to ask a simple question: why are Murakami's works so fascinating? The prose is nothing fancy. It's written in a deceptively simple style in the tradition of Vonnegut and Carver. The stories are usually about an "ordinary" person (usually a guy), punctuated by long, pseudo-philosophical conversations that remind one of Dostoevsky. The main guy usually doesn't do much and likes to  just chill. In short, Murakami's stories seem to have NOTHING fascinating about them.

So I ask, "Why are his stories so fascinating?"