Continuing from my previous post, another interesting event happened during a Revising and Editing class I sat in at Cortland. In explaining how a colon can be used to introduce a list, the professor used as an example, "My favorite food is:" and had the class start calling out their favorite foods.
It was a slow start to get people to speak up, but the enthusiasm quickly snowballed. Soon people were calling out what they liked, others were commenting on how they also liked that food while others expressed their disinterest in the food.
The professor reeled the class in and continued on with the lesson, but it was amazing how easily the entire class could have been derailed at that point. I was thinking about how, if I am having a conversation with my friends, I regularly do find myself getting derailed or sidetracked by using an example which branches off into a new conversation (thus leaving the original one unfinished).
But I also thought about how excited the class got by bringing up foods they like. Even though food had nothing to do with the subject at hand (ironically, the colon), people responded quickly and positively to this random subject.
And I do that all the time. Whenever it's quiet and I can't think of anything better to say, I will come up with a random question. It sometimes seems completely insane to just say, "would you rather eat a walrus or a whale", but it actually ended up leading to some great jokes that lasted me through the whole weekend that I spent with my friends.
In short, the principle here is a fascinating one. We react to subjects we care about. Even if they sprout up unrelated to anything else going on, we still like it. Random insanity can easily result in random awesomeness. It may not make for the most exciting prose, but if you're making a magazine, you'll see that the pros learned this lesson a long time ago.