Telemarketers, D-list comedies, and cringey soap operas remind me of one another.
Each reeks of a particular quality, which I used to think were unrelated: salesiness, cheesiness, or sentimentality.
These are actually the same thing, just expressed in different domains.
Salesiness, cheesiness, and sentimentality all show the attempted effort — to sell, to make laugh, or to make feel.
But none have the intended effect.
- Salesiness wants you to buy, but all that lands is the incessant, irritating push of being sold to. You don’t want whatever it is they’re selling (and the hard sell only sends you running faster in the opposite direction). It’s the opposite of “take my money!”
- Cheesiness wants to be funny, but it’s too cheap to generate any real (non-ironic) laughter. It’s #DadJoke. You wish it would stop. Please. I beg of you.
- Sentimentality wants to induce those mushy-gushy emotions in you, but it’s just overtly telling you what to feel without actually making you feel it. It’s saying, “This is sad,” rather than causing a physiological shift in your body that makes liquid to leak from your eyes.
The art of craft is about subsuming your efforts under the effects, so that all people feel is what you want them to feel — without an emotional instruction manual.
This act is magic, and it’s work. Take it from a writer with 20+ years of experience.
The more you build your craft, the more power you’ll have to land your pitches, to make a reader laugh, to make a reader cry.