Tabloids, Grocery Drama, and Fiction


A tabloid made me take my eye off the ball.

I was standing in a long line at the grocery store, six back from the register. At least ten more shoppers were behind me. And no other checkout lane was better.

A “major” storm was coming to D.C.-metro land. Weather folks had predicted a walloping. Three, four, maybe even six inches of snow. Gasp!

Everybody and their grandma were at the store, stocking up on bread, milk, and marginal-looking lettuce. I stood in the checkout lane, handcart on the ground in front of me, securing my position. And then I got distracted by the tabloids.

The shiny pictures, the yellow font, the exclamation points…

Wait, Brad moved in with Jennifer? There’s trouble between George and Amal?

While I was busy flipping through the magazine, a lady in her late-50s/early-60s had cut in front of me.

Mmhmm. She sure did.

To get confirmation, I glanced at the guy behind me and mouthed, “Did she just…”

He nodded before I even finished, and gave me the I’d-handle-it-if-I-were-you look, followed with the I-got-your-back-because-I’m-an-attorney look. Living in D.C.-metro land, you know that look.

“Excuse me?” I said to the cutter. She was typing on her phone, pretending not to hear.

I tapped her gently. “Excuse me?” She smiled, as if I were a Girl Scout selling cookies. Deadpan, I said to her, “The line’s back there.” And I pointed to the long row of people behind me, which now rivaled an amusement park line.

“Oh,” the lady said. “I didn’t realize. I’m so sorry.” She stepped aside. And this was the kicker, she said, “How presumptuous of me.”

I gave her the you-said-it-I-didn’t look, and she went on her way.


Those tabloids, though.

Who knows if that lady was telling the truth or not? (I doubt it.) Who knows if those tabloids were telling the truth or not, either? (I doubt that, too.) But what happened was an interesting lesson on how the tabloid got my attention.

  • The glossy cover and telling pictures
  • A catchy headline
  • Characters that we “care” about
  • A juicy story

Fellow fiction writers, doesn’t this list look familiar? Pretty similar to the things we should do with our books, right?

If you peel back the layer that screams tabloid, the core of the onion is the same.

We want our book covers to attract attention. We want a book title that stops time. We want fingers to practically tear open the book to get to page one. We want our stories to distract people from reality, to the point that they let someone cut in front of them in line at the doggone grocery store…

Or something like that.

How cool would it be if our books were the catalyst of a little grocery store drama?

Photo by Jomjakkapat Parrueng on Unsplash





Published by Rene Penn

Author. Blogger.

2 thoughts on “Tabloids, Grocery Drama, and Fiction

  1. This reminds me of the breathless words a lot of writers or publishers stuff into their book blurbs or descriptions, even into the titles on Amazon, thriller with a twist you’ll never see coming, etc. But yes, it’s a good reminder to get some ‘hooks’ into the story.

    Liked by 1 person

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