WG2E Guest Pepper Phillips on “Talking to Non-Writers this Holiday Season”

TGIF, WG2E-Land!!!

Please help me give a Big Ol’ WG2E Welcome to Pepper Phillips, who’s giving us the scoop on “How-to Talk to Non-Writers” this holiday season. :-)

Take it away, Pepper…

You’ve seen it.  You’re talking to a non-writer about your book, and a distant look comes to their eyes.  You can see that they would like to be anywhere except in front of you, listening. But you’re so excited, you don’t care, so you continue.  Well, cut it out!  They don’t care! Instead try some of these:

1.  Dig out your blurbs.  Writer’s really should carry 3×5 cards around with a 25 word or less blurb.  Ask the person if they would help you out by listening to the blurb, read them aloud, but only three.  You really don’t want to go overboard by reading them a dozen, and mark on the back of the card, who liked it and why.  The “why” is market research.  If you’re set on a book and no one chooses it, ever, should you write it?  Write the one they like the most.

2.  Ask them about names.  I have a difficult time finding names.  I’m using Bruce for my villain at the moment, because there was a boy in fourth grade who I disliked with that name.  Ask for the most humorous name they’ve ever heard of, or seen.  Really, Brick Wall ran for political office in my area.  I picture his mother naming his brothers names like; Stone, Rock, Mason and the list can go on.  Run your hero and heroine names by them and ask if they like them.  If they say “no,” always ask “why?”

3.  If you’re having a difficult time with a scene, ask them if they can think of something that can help.  Usually not.  But every now and then, you might get a good answer.

4.  Ask them what they do, and ask them questions about their job.  People love to talk about themselves, and it’s a great way to mine for information.  If their job is boring, ask them what is the most interesting thing that has happened on the job.  Ask off-the-wall questions.  Such as, “So you sell insurance, how can someone defraud your company and not get caught?”  You might not use the information immediately, but it will go into your storage bank.

5.  Ask them how they met their significant other?  What drew them to that person?  What makes them stay with them?  There are a lot of questions in this vein.  It shows character, both on the person you’re talking to and the person they are talking about.

6.  Ask them about the “first” kiss.  (On a roller coaster.)  The “best” kiss.  (OMG!)  What happened to make that kiss the best?  Here’s a good one.  “What was your worst kiss?

7.  Ask them about their worst relationship ever.  That should be more than interesting, dig deep, get reasons why they stayed with someone they shouldn’t have.

8.  Ask them what their dreams are.  What they hope to accomplish in life.  Ask them brave questions.  I remember the day I turned eighteen, my college professor asked me, “What do you want most out of life?”  I thought for a moment, and replied, “To be happy.”  That’s still what I want out of life.

9.  Ask them about the books they read, who are their favorite authors, and why?  The “why” is the most important one in this question.  Have you asked yourself this question about your favorite authors…why are they your favorite?

10.  If you’re really brave, ask them about the strangest place they’ve ever made love.

Their eyes won’t be glazed over after that question.  LOL

Okay, WG2E-Land: What do you do when the eyes of the Non-Writers in your family begin to glaze over when you start talking Writing and Books during holiday get-togethers?

About Pepper:

Born in the Northwest, a Navy brat, Pepper has lived on both coasts and in between as well.  Once her Marine hubby was discharged, they have lived mostly in Louisiana.  There was that stint in Texas and Georgia when he went to the Army’s Helicopter School.  But she now considers herself a ‘Southern’ girl, and her writing reflects those roots.  Her ‘Phillips’ last name comes from her great-grandmother whose family came from Alabama, so there is some Southern blood in there somewhere.

Mother of six, with a seventeen year difference between #5 and #6, it was definitely a new beginning with a baby and a senior in high school.  She’s been married to her Alpha hero for fifty years, which makes it easy for her to write about them.

So far, Pepper has managed to convert a screenplay into a novella, “Unconditionally.”  Her “The Christmas Gift” is her newest release, it is the “book of her heart” as most of it is true.  The ending makes her cry…every time, but it is a book of love and hope.  “The Devil Has Dimples,” is her version of small town Southern life.

Pepper was a Winner at NaNoWriMo, and can no longer claim that she is a ‘slow’ writer.  She’s still clicking the keys to finish the book for an early 2013 release.  And yes…finally, she’s happy with the way her writing life has been going.

Connect with Pepper here:

Blog and Website:  http://pepperphillips.com

Amazon Author Page:  http://www.amazon.com/Pepper-Phillips/e/B006HTEMYS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pepper.phillips.52?fref=ts

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Pepper_Phillips

Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5336699.Pepper_Phillips

Southern sass with a touch of heart…

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  1. Lois Lavrisa says:

    Welcome Pepper! This is so true and an easy way to break the ice when you meet someone new ” People love to talk about themselves, and it’s a great way to mine for information.”:)

    • You have that right! People love to talk about themselves. And you can find out some cool information that you might be able to use in the future. Even if they are as boring as all get-out, you can use that as well. Breathing life into ‘characters’ is easier if we have something in the ‘well.’

  2. Tamara Ward says:

    Thanks, Pepper! These are fantastic and fun questions. Thanks for the post and the ideas.

  3. Sheri says:

    Hi Pepper,

    Thanks for the GREAT post! I have my elevator pitch at the ready, but had never thought about flipping things around, and ‘interviewing’ the people who are kind enough to ask about my stories. Some of your suggestions will make for great cocktail party convo, too. :)

    a/k/a Alex Sheridan
    Author of Finding Round

  4. Lynn Cahoon says:

    You’d have to be a little careful with question number 10. At least in the workplace. LOL Love the blurb idea though. Great post.

  5. Liz Matis says:

    Hi Pepper! I always ask couples how they met as I LOVE hearing these stories. Never been brave enough to ask about the first kiss.

  6. Angela Brown says:

    These are great suggestions. You are right, though. I start talking about writing and I could just ramble on until the netherworld comes lol! But showing interest in that probing questions about them is a great way to go.

  7. D.D. Scott says:

    What a hoot and then some, Pepper!!!

    I always enjoy asking them “so, if you wanted to commit the perfect murder, how would you do it?” And yes, usually we all visualize the victim as some less-than-popular peep in the family room! LOL!!!

    Between the fact that my DH is a 30-year Sheriff’s Department Captain, and I write humorous mysteries, including several “stiffs,” it becomes quite entertaining, especially after the eggnog and wine start flowing!!! :-)

    The rest of the writer stuff, they could give a crap about…but yeah, ask ‘em about murder, and they’re all ears!!! Go figure…

    • You have to watch talking about murder in a restaurant. The people at other tables start to stare. LOL Or sex. They really turn their ears in your direction then.

  8. Love your questions, Pepper!

  9. Julie Day says:

    What a good idea. I will probably be meeting my brother’s new girlfriend for the first time over the holiday and this gives me something to talk about. Perhaps I could ask her what special power she’d like to have if she was granted one (my angels in my YA series all have powers to help save humans). We shall see.

    • Ah! Special powers. Wish I’d have thought of that. And here my book in progress has a heroine with special powers. That would be an interesting topic. Thanks Julie.

  10. Great questions, Pepper. I’m going to remember those for those awkward moments when I don’t really know what to say… usually after one of those non-writers tells me she wants me to write her life story. Yeah, right. That’s going to happen. lol

    • I tell people that I couldn’t do them justice, they need to tell their story in their own way. But you’re right. Everyone has a book in them, even if they want someone else to write it!

  11. Edie Ramer says:

    Great questions! I never would’ve thought of them. On Christmas, I’ll ask some of these questions. That might liven up the place. lol

  12. What great ice-breakers! Maybe people won’t run the other way when I tell them I’m a writer?

    • Oh, no. What’s with people? You can always talk to a writer…it’s the non-writers that I have problems with, therefore, the questions.

      • LC says:

        You have a lively writing style and this is very practical advice. I think many ebooks do not sell as well as they could because the book blurb is more of a summary instead of enticing potential readers to buy. Why not ask non-writers (potential readers) what they think?

        As for character names, my favorite resource is the Social Security site on popular baby names at http://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/ You can search by year, decade, region, etc. to find appropriate names. I used to rely on a baby name book but it was published in 1980 and is dated. My recent children’s chapter book had names like Timmy, Sally and Trixie (yes, Trixie). My writing group pointed out that the names were a little dated. With the help of this site my characters were re-christened Dylan, Laura, and Chloe.

        Thanks, Pepper!

        • Oh, yes. I do use internet sites for character names. In The Christmas Gift, I searched for names in 1920, since the book is set in 1932. Very handy to find names that were current in that time period. I’ll have to check out that site, because the ‘region’ would really work in the South. Of course in my area, people are not called by their name, but by a nickname. Where else can I call someone Bologna, or slip a ‘T’ in front of their name to mean ‘big’…LOL

  13. Alison Pensy says:

    Great post!! I love those ideas for questions and will put some to the test :-) . Thanks.

  14. Jill James says:

    Pepper, great to “see” you here. Those are great questions to get people talking.

  15. I have to disappear. There is company! Eck!!! I’ll be back when I get out of no-man’s land, meaning no internet where I’m going.

    But warning…I will be back!

  16. What a fun post! I’m going to a party tonight with a lot of strangers and I will definitely try some of these suggestions. I love the idea of asking for funny names! Welcome, Pepper! I’ll bet you’re really fun to meet at a party.

    D.D.–I love your suggestion, too!

  17. Good stuff, Pepper. And you’re right – people usually love talking about what they do, and if they’re polite, will ask you what you do. I always have a business card ready just in case!

  18. Fun post, Pepper! Great to see you here. I confess, I’m not as courageous as you when it comes to questioning people, but I make up for it with my sneakily attentive observations. :)

  19. Ruthanne Pomelee Seitz says:

    I love it when I ask someone how they met their spouse, and see a faraway look and a soft smile come over their face. Even if they are divorced. Even if they are in a bad marriage. It was a magical time for them.

  20. SK Holmesley says:

    I have a tendency to be nosy, I think, but usually ask a question because someone I’m talking to has said something that catches my attention and I pursue it. I try to be careful, however, because a lot of the problems people share with me are very personal to them, and although they end up on various of my character’s plates, I always make sure that the character cursed with that problem does not embody the original person closely enough for identification. And yes, sometimes the stories they share are about sex, but even more frequently they’re about times they feel they failed in school, on the job, or just in life. I commiserate if they didn’t / haven’t recovered, and applaud if they have, but either way their story will eventually be twisted and plague one of my characters. I remember a friend in college told our group one time that whenever anyone in our group had a problem, I had a story about someone who had had a similar problem, typically with a follow thru on how that person had solved the problem or the outcome if they hadn’t. Her comment to the me was that “I suppose I’ll end up in one of your stories someday too.” We lost track of each other over the years, but yes, she has ended up in many of my cautionary tales. :-)

    • Living in a small town, where the people are related to each other, or know each other, it’s amazing the stories that come out that involve different people you know. And you do have to be careful when using ‘real’ problems.

  21. neringa says:

    so basically, you involve them in your research… Always have, people love reliving their memories…
    And baby names on websites with meanings help me create a character and fun to get those creative juices flowing …


    • Dear friend Neringa…I will use your name in a book one day. She will be the tall blonde goddess, just like you…but everything else will be made-up stuff. I might make her a red-head. I love red-headed women. Oh, wait, my hair used to be red…from a bottle of course.

  22. Great post Pepper. Thanks for sharing.