More questions. More help. Introducing Mastering Table Topics Second Edition.

“One simple trick” to writing a great speech or story

As you browse Web sites, you’ve probably come across the “one simple trick” ad that shows you how to lose weight or save on car insurance. (The ad service I use may be displaying one now above this post.) There is a “one simple trick” that will help you write your next speech or story. It’s a simple trick that helps you choose your subject, gives you the endurance to go through the writing process, and ensures that your work entices and excites your audience.

That one simple trick is passion.

It seems obvious, as all simple tricks are. But how many times have you picked a subject that you think interests you, but it doesn’t really excite you? You wind up becoming bogged down in your work. If you are able to finish, the lack of passion becomes evident to your listeners or readers. So, the real trick is how to find subjects you are passionate about. Here are some ways to find them.

What angers you?

Survivor contestant Kat Edorsson said, “It takes a lot more energy to be angry…and it’s a lot easier to smile and to forgive and be happy.” It’s true about life, but in the creative process, you need that energy. Political and social issues provide a dependable supply of anger, but they are not the only sources. Have you ever had your heart broken? Been betrayed by your friends, like Kat had? Has someone cheated you? Has disease or violent crime ever claimed a loved one? Find something that gets your blood boiling, and it will give you the drive to produce a compelling work.

What do you fear?

Although we typically fear what we hate and vice versa, I’m covering fear separately because it stirs a different type of passion. While anger drives us towards action, fear paralyzes us. We are just as much afraid of this sense of vulnerability and helplessness as we are of the thing that frightens us. Tapping into these primal fears can stimulate our writing.

What turns you on?

Of course, there is that other primal passion, sex. We need it. Our biology drives us to have it. Sex is passion, and that’s why it is the source of most creative works. It’s not necessary to include the NSFW bits. The innuendos about sex, the hints that it happened, or the promise that it will happen if a relationship continues — those may be even more powerful than showing the act itself.

What fascinates you?

My brother Randy Stern has been fascinated by cars since he was a child. This passion powers his work in Victory and Reseda and his column in Lavender magazine. Perhaps you have a subject that fascinates you, like aircraft design, the psychology of serial killers, or madrigal music.  Developing a passion for a subject builds on itself. The more you learn about the topic, the more fascinated you are about it, and the more passionate you become to learn more. You can bring both your knowledge and passion for the subject to your work.

Show your passion

However you find your passion, bring it to your writing process. Show your passion in the quality of your work, the strength of your structure, and the level of appropriate detail. For a speech, project that passion in your delivery. Since it is a subject you care about deeply, that passion should show naturally. Same is true with writing: the quality of descriptions and language choice should reflect your energy for the subject.

Remember that passion is infectious. When you show passion in your work, the audience will pick it up and become passionate about your subject as well. This is why passion is the “one simple trick” for better speeches and writing.

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