What I learned about writing from Cambodian children

If you’ve ever visited Cambodia, you know that the whole country has an entrepreneurial spirit. People offer you rides on their scooters for a price, men sell cut sugarcane, and children mob you selling postcards, handmade crafts, books, and pretty much anything and everything else.

The competition is beyond stiff and you see a whole range of tactics, from super aggressive to friendly. I was the most impressed with the children. The best ones immediately told you their name, asked your name, where you were from, told you facts about your home country, and anything they could to make an impression and develop a rapport. They did it fast too–they had about ten seconds maximum to make you want to buy their products and not the next person’s.

It worked too. I was much more likely to buy something from Jentha who had two brothers and a sister at home and called me by my name and could name the capital of my country, than I was from some random little girl offering me five postcards for a dollar when I already had all the postcards I needed.

I realized that this is a little like fiction, especially short fiction and especially blog fiction. People are more likely to give a novel a chance to develop the plot and characters, but on a blog, people who are clicking around randomly have half a million other blogs to choose from, so why do they choose mine?

The title, of course, is important to draw people in, but also the first paragraph. With blog writing, the currency is not money, but time, and I know for myself, it is often the first paragraph, that part that shows up in the summary, that determines if I’m going to read more or not.

Of course, there is another aspect. For the children this process is all about selling. They learn the names of perhaps hundreds of tourists a day and probably forget them almost instantly, but it was also easy to tell those who were only after the money and those who were also truly friendly and engaging. Blogging is not just selling our blogs, it’s also about building relationships. We should be engaging and attractive, but we also have to be honest. People are attracted to authenticity and can tell if it’s not there.

About David Stewart

I am a writer of anything quirky and weird. I love most genres of fiction and in each there are stories that I would consider "my kind of story". View all posts by David Stewart

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