At one open mic, I performed “The Malevolent Mystery Meat” starring The Puppy Brothers: two grade-school brothers with super puppy powers who save Super Holly from the evil school lunch ladies. I’d read what I’d written: “Tucker bit the door handle and yanked off the door: KA-RUNCH! Near the barrel, Holly was still passed out.” On an impulse, I ad-libbed, “And still pretty.” A young lady in the audience smiled and said, “Aww!” That ad-lib went into the final draft.
At another open mic, I read an upcoming short story where Super Holly had performed her comic book in the children’s ward in a hospital, ending it on a cliffhanger. A little girl in a wheelchair asked Holly to tell her the ending now. Holly said she’d read it next time. The girl said, “I’m not gonna be here next time.” “Aww,” said a young lady in the audience. I knew what Mario Puzo knew when he wrote, “I’ll make him an offer he cannot refuse.”
Kid-sitting one evening for my cousin, his kids asked me to read a Super Holly story. They liked her fighting Billington Stumpfinger. When Holly’s boyfriend Cal kissed her and said, “I love you,” and Holly kissed him back and said, “I love you more,” the kids said, “Ew!” I told this to their mom. She said they just started doing that. I’ll keep that kissing.
Listen to your audience. Small words can mean big reactions.