Writers sell dreams. They are salespeople, sometimes of used cars, sometimes of toothpaste, sometimes of three hundred thousand acre estates with a forty bedroom manor house dating back to the 1400s, woodland suitable for hunting and shooting, a trout stream, three guest cottages and planning permission for a private helipad and animal sanctuary. No one needs that many bedrooms, nor that much land, but how it would feel to have it anyway? To have your own private kingdom or the freedom to hop in a car and go anywhere, or just to have nice shiny white teeth that don’t hurt when you eat ice cream.
That right there? That’s a dream. It’s something you want so badly you can taste it and when the chance comes up to have it, you barely dare hope it’s real, scared it will evaporate before your eyes before you can grasp it.
Sometimes, of course, we’re taking money for another kind of dream. The ones people in this world can’t make real, no matter how much money they make – to ride a dragon, fly a broomstick or fend off a ravening horde of battle-scarred but-curiously-inept monsters with only a sword and witty banter (and rescue the gorgeous [insert gendered noun here] of their choice, of course).
Every word of a book is selling a dream. The difference with books, though, is that, unlike every other kind of copy, a book is itself the dream that it’s selling.
Even if a car has its selling points written all over it, probably in neon purple and lime green tape, those words are not part of the car. You can take the tape off and the car’s awesomeness (or lack thereof) will not be changed. That wonderful three hundred thousand acre country estate is not materially affected by the words used by the selling agents to describe it. Calling it a “fabulous development opportunity” or a “gorgeous countryside retreat” will not change a single roof tile or blade of grass on the actual property. The walls are not made up of a million repetitions of the word “brick”. Changing the words you use to describe what you’re selling will change the efficacy of the story you tell about it, but it won’t change the item itself.
Stories, however, are the dream they sell. A writer’s job is to make the reader want to be there and the more they want to be there, the longer they stick around, living this new dream through the pages. But someone riding a dragon is going to have a very different experience to one riding a unicorn. Changing one word changes the story, which in turn changes the dream you’re leaving behind the reader’s eyes, the dream you’re selling them with every page turned. Who hasn’t wanted to ride a dragon or a unicorn at some point? But which is this a story about – a dragon rider or a unicorn rider? It’s important to know. They’re different dreams, to be experienced in different ways.
Dreams don’t have to be trodden on. They can be hat and coat, fire and shelter, even food and drink. When you create a story, remember: dreams are real and stories make them more so. That’s why sales are full of them. Salespeople aren’t selling an item. They’re selling how it makes you feel and dreams are the most emotive thing. How would you feel if your dream came true? What would you give, what would you do to make that happen?
Writers don’t sell stories. We sell dreams. So watch those threads. Hearts and minds are yours for the weaving of words, and not just for the life of a product, but for the life of a story and stories can last forever.