Wynn-ing Ways: How To Use Boredom to Unlock Reader Curiosity

I’ve written about how a story is a way for humans to experience human givens through your characters.

This is all deep and highbrow, but what about boredom?

Boredom is powerful. We react instinctually when bored.

You might not even have the attention span to make it through all 2,200 words of this article.

When there is boredom, many are conditioned to go to their mobile device.

With a few taps, you’re into Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or TikTok. Those platforms use algorithms to hold your attention.

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But is it attention?

I think this is another dirty secret we need to discuss.

The attention I give on certain platforms isn’t high quality. I go on to the platform with substandard attention and only seek to trigger some dopamine quickly.

A Pavlovian response…

Operant conditioning.

I wonder what those being sold my attention are being charged?

I doubt it’s worth it.

Is boredom the gateway to curiosity?

Readers use your product during their free time.

It’s paid for by disposable income, by people with time on their hands. In some respects, its sole purpose is to escape from boredom.

Could this be about getting readers to see a better use of free time?

I can speak from my experience that I’ve become a better person through reading.

Fiction and non-fiction reading have made me think about what I want from life and how to be a better person.

I think there is a higher purpose in the work you do. However, if you write genre fiction, some readers are only looking to fill time—an escape from boredom.

We left off in the last article talking about loops and systems thinking.

The takeaway was that we are designing our business to facilitate customer delight and investor needs.

Rather than having just a funnel or sales-based sequence, we think about where the reader is and meet them there.

How do you get a new customer with half-baked attention off a platform dedicated to keeping them in a trance with a dopamine drip?

Can you use curiosity to pull someone from a boredom-induced trance into exploring your story world?

George Loewenstein wrote the following comprehensive review and reinterpretation of curiosity in 1994:

“There is a spectrum of curiosity. Some scientists see it as instinctual, ‘the need to know more about our surroundings.’ Similar to how rats will naturally explore more of a maze that is unknown to them.”

Other researchers see it as a need to improve competence and understanding.

The exact drive behind curiosity isn’t as important as how it may be one of the few instincts that can offset our urge to go to Instagram for a dopamine shot.

Use curiosity to shift attention and guide the reader where you want them to go.

As you design your customer-facing loops, think about how you can shift your readers from an interest in the story to your community or other story-related experiences on platforms like Facebook.

If getting them off the platform and through a sale is a bridge too far, maybe the place to start is getting them into your Facebook group.

Or use your skills to lead them to where you need them to go.

This isn’t a far reach for a fiction writer.

You use plot structure to guide your reader through a story experience with the basic curiosity hook. The reader wants to know the outcome.

They want to see if they are as smart as your character in figuring out the villain’s movements or the end of a mystery.

Even non-fiction uses this powerful method of transition to move from problem state to solution state.

We are hard-wired to look for meaning.

We are hard-wired to identify the cause of an effect. This search is part of curiosity. It has been part of our survival instinct to understand what might cause something negative so that we can avoid it in the future.

We seek meaning in our existence, the things around us, and the actions of others. Open loops and unanswered questions keep us curious.

Many of the strategies you are already using to keep pages turning in your book apply to getting readers to move through your marketing to your community. Strangely, authors abandon this superpower to use pedestrian attention disruption tactics with a call to action.

The other night, my wife and I were watching a series. We liked the actors but had already figured out who the killer was in the second episode. We continued not because we were engaged with the mystery but because we were engaged with the open loop of proving once again we had ruined a series early with our deductive skills.

We got a different payoff.

Instead of a surprise, it was, “Boy, aren’t we smart!”

Regardless of whether the payoff was a surprise twist or confirmation of our deduction, the provider still got the minutes watched from us.

Your readers have shown that they will choose to read books given free time. Some avid readers, given boredom, will reread a book, just like others who re-watch movies or TV series.

Have I earned your attention?

The average Facebook or Instagram viewer scrolls the height of the Statue of Liberty each day. You can’t expect to get much from their attention. It’s passive attention.

A fleeting glance, a few words read…

The platforms have their agenda. Regardless of how poor the attention inventory is, it’s for sale, and people buy it. They are doing everything they can to keep you on the platform.

If a user leaves Facebook, they want to know what happens. For most e-commerce, Facebook not only sees clicks on an ad but the activity on the website. Did they browse or buy, and more importantly, did they return to Facebook? All of this goes into the evaluation if they show your ads.

This brings us to the book launch and a fresh way of thinking about how it can become a slower burn that earns attention.

You can use the same methods you use to build curiosity and tension in your books to enrich and improve the attention of a prospective reader.

In its simplest form, we have seen authors use the cover reveal to pique interest.

Can you weave open loops and curiosity to generate further interest in your story world and community?

At the full pitch, your lead-up to the new book becomes more than just awareness about a new launch but the way to satisfy their curiosity. The book launch becomes the closing of an open loop.

This isn’t a far-reach. It’s what makes a great book description cause a reader to look inside.

A great look inside leaves the reader buying the book.

I suggest you let this bleed out into your communications earlier and in more ways to convert boredom to curiosity, then attention.

Genres like thrillers and mysteries naturally attract those interested in solving riddles and puzzles. Can the amateur sleuths who read your books complete a puzzle and get special access?

This isn’t a new concept. I Love Bees was an alternate reality game used to promote the launch of a video game.

Those who took part and completed the scavenger hunt were awarded special access to HALO 2.

Let me leave you with this…

Could you write a series of ads or posts that would build my interest and awareness for your brand and next story?

A story to get me interested in your story?

Use tools like retargeting and page visits to have a virtual scavenger hunt that builds up a genuine interest in reading your next book?

I’d love to hear what ideas this article has stirred up. Let me know; maybe I can help flesh them out. 

Read: Building Visibility and Discoverability to Elevate Your Next Book Launch