I recently had a chance to speak with a fiction writer and a memoir writer that sold the movie rights to her book. The writing advice I got from both of them was different than that I’ve received from professional bloggers and online marketers. They were both writers first and bloggers second and the result was distinct voices that made them both unmistakable. So I thought I’d share some lessons from fiction that can be applied to your content.
1. Shape Scenes
Go so deeply into your imagination that you feel like you’ve been to the place you’re trying to create. Bring your reader to that place. Create a picture for them. Describe things in vivid detail so that they can imagine themselves in a scene. If you’re trying to sell a product, then your scene becomes somebody’s experience of using that product. The product is secondary to the story you’re trying to tell. When I spoke to a group of travel marketers about the art of digital storytelling I said that “the destination is just the backdrop.” In this case the destination is the product and what matters more is the scene that gets created with every story.
2. Create Characters
In many ways our personal brands, voice, and the way we show up online is a caricature of who we are in real life. The narrower the gap between who you are in person and what you’re like online, the more real you become. View yourself as a character in all the content you create, and give people a sense for this character. Let them develop an emotional response to the person you are.
Insurance is a pretty boring business. No offense to those of you who sell it. But it’s not the kind of thing that lights people’s eyes up. It may not seem like the kind of business in which you can create a character. But Geico has done exactly that and recently they published a character driven piece called You’re Only Human: Written by the Gecko
3. Take your Customers/Readers on Journey
Every piece of content should have n arc and narrative. You should take your readers on a journey and an adventure that keeps them on the edge of their seat, anticipating what’s coming next. The goal isn’t necessarily to become the next Steven Spielberg, but rather to think more like a storyteller and less like an online marketer.
4. Let Your Imagination Run Riot
In the world of fiction you get to play in a space where there are no rules. Forget best practices, SEO, and all these things for a while. Worrying about those things will stifle your creativity, and lower the volume of the brilliant voice within you. Create an imaginary world in which anything is possible. Feel free to create a world where cars can fly, animals can talk, and superheroes are on every street corner. If you need some help with this read Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling
5. Don’t be so Polished
“I think it’s about shedding ego and going inwards” – Torre De Roche, The Fearful Adventurer
The irony of polishing our work too much is that it loses the thing makes it shine. It becomes manufactured instead of hand crafted. Readers tend not to trust this nearly as much as things that are rough around the edges. That could mean leaving in the parts of your content that make you vulnerable, showcase your flaws, and amplify your imperfections. In a world where everybody has a microphone, being imperfect and honest are essential to standing out.
Does fiction have an influence on your content? Let me know in the comments below if you’ve leveraged any other ideas from great fiction.