Wit and wisdom for wordsmiths

Why you should have a dog-on-the-roof story

IrishSetter Why you should have a dog on the roof story

Flickr image by Lace Market

Do you have a signature story? Something that makes people open your posts, listen to you speak, read your articles?

I know a little boy who does.

Yesterday I was watching a hummingbird drink from a feeder with 3-year-old Tucker, who lives across the street. Suddenly Tucker said, “Do you know why hummingbirds hum?

“I don’t know, Tucker. Why?”

Because they don’t know the words!” said Tucker, hooting at his own joke.

The rest of the day, his Mom told me, Tucker told his hummingbird joke to everyone he saw. For a little while, it became his signature story because he loved the reaction it got.

For New York Times columnist Gail Collins, the tale of Mitt Romney’s dog Seamus spending a drive to Canada on the roof of the family car became her signature story.

She worked it into her columns so often that The Atlantic Wire once called it her “crate-gate crusade.”

But Collins didn’t write about Seamus strictly for laughs. She used it to illustrate her opinion – opinion being the operative word — about Romney’s character.

The story triggered T-shirts, websites, PETA protests, and even a New Yorker cover with Rick Santorum as Seamus.

Predictably, Democrats laughed and Republicans yelled foul. One republican columnist wrote that Collins ought to play fair and “grow up.”

She didn’t stop. She was making a point, and the naysayers be damned.

Signature stories are usually funny, though they can also be tough, moving or inspirational. 

The one thing they have to do is make a point.  Which means they have to have a point of view. They must take a stand.

Nobody ever doubted what Ronald Reagan stood for, and part of the reason was that he had a signature story.  He made his positions clear.

Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan tells a story about the time Reagan was listening to a reluctant senator explaining why he wasn’t supporting a bill the President wanted.

“I’d jump out of a plane for you,” said the senator, testifying to his loyalty.

In vintage style, Reagan responded,”Jump.” He got the senator’s vote.

Do you have a signature story? How did you develop it, and does it get the results you want?

 Comment below!

Leave a reply

CommentLuv badge