Whether you’re writing for the web, desiging content strategy or trying to write presentations, it’s important to go on a manhunt. I’ll tell you why.
Ben Saunders is a British explorer, and he’s just about to set out for the Antarctic to complete the journey that Robert Scott failed to finish. It’s going to be the first time the full return route has been done completely unsupported. Quite a feat, through hundreds of miles of unforgiving, bleak and beautiful country.
On Ben’s blog is an entry by Henry Worsley, a fellow Antarctican who has written a brief guide to the route. What’s fascinating about this is what really captures your attention: not the way he describes the texture of the ice, or the majesty of Mount Erebus, but the tantalising details of massed human presence on the continent.
Worsley mentions four-storey buildings, a bustling airport, container ports, scientists buzzing each other on skidoos – a miniature city on the ice. McMurdo. Against this backdrop, the details of the frozen wastes beyond pale and dim. We want to hear more about the city on the ice, thanks – the snow can wait, as it always has done.
It’s the chase for the human element that causes such fascination, even in the presence of nature’s might. We want to know what the humans are doing there, how they live, how they behave to each other and what they love and hate.
Next time you read something that feels flat or cold, do the manhunt: look for the human in it. Chances are, the writer has been on the frozen wastes rather than toasting his toes in a bowl of warm water back at base.