Writers

How Magnetic Writers Tell Stories in Real Copy

About a 4 minute read…

Writers tell stories. It’s as simple as that, right? We’re about to find out, so let’s get started.

Trying to define what exactly writers do other than drink coffee and yell at people on the street all day is a tricky, convoluted task. It’s a task that writers struggle with, because most writers don’t want to be pigeon-holed into one strict discipline.

For the most part, writers are creative. Granted, the style and tone of our stories needs to suit our audience. Let’s use a metaphorical blog about lawn-care to build a case for storytelling in your copy.

Slip Stories Into The Background

Is this possible? Can we actually fit storytelling into the background of a blog post about cuttin’ grass and rakin’ leaves? Defining yourself as a storyteller doesn’t mean squat to a 65-year-old reading about the benefits of SUPER CUT N’ GRO ENERGY DRINK FOR LAWNS, but that doesn’t mean we can’t pump some life into your writing, right?

Check out this pertinent example of telling a story within a blog post from Stan at Pushing Social: The Forrest Gump Guide to Attracting Readers and Becoming a Legend.

Stop asking questions already and just tell a story. Build situations around your focus points that are specific enough to make your copy interesting without alienating your readers.

Who’s reading?

I could have been a lot more specific with my statement about the lawn-care blog reader, which would have increased interest with my readers. The reader is 65, sure, but are we writing about a male or female? What’s this person’s job? Who does he or she live with? Work with?

Modified:

“Telling a story is crucial to the interest level of the 65-year-old retired navy marine who reads your blog on chilly northern Ontario autumn saturday mornings to learn about preparing his tomatoes for snow because, let’s face it, winter is coming.”

Use Personable Words in Your Headlines & Body Copy 

The harsh reality is that many professionals such as resume writers, technical writers and ghost writers are at the mercy of their content. They don’t get to spout off at their own behest like I do here on the Function Writing blog. Maybe if we were all writing children’s stories or short stories about flying goats then we wouldn’t need to worry about subtly slipping a story into our copy.

I digress. Didn’t you get into the writing game because A) you have a passion for the power of persuasive, positive words and/or B) an irrational fear of bad grammars, and punctuation errors? There’s no reason you can’t take your knack for using personable words to tell a story in your work.

Here’s my point: choose your words carefully. The original headline, when I was exploring the idea for this post, was How to Tell a Story With Your Writing. While I may have known what my objective was, would that headline have compelled you to read the post?

How to Tell a Story With Your Writing is a far less humanized, targeted and interesting headline when compared with How Magnetic Writers Tell Stories With Real Copy. This second headline alludes to another question as well: what is ‘real copy’? To which I answer with this:

All Copy is Real Copy

As a copywriter, I’m tasked with writing to a specific audience that’s always changing. Copywriters are paid for their work: articles, print materials, blog posts, web copy and email marketing they write for companies large and small with the intention of appealing to said company’s clients and customers.

I’ve been working on a generic, ultra-technical visual identity style guide for a client who needs it to be easily tweaked to suit his clients. There’s no room to write about made-up ex-marines, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appropriately inspire my readers with timeless, meaty words with which they can create their own story.

There’s always room for a story.

Mmmm, meat. Still with me?

Start at the Beginning, Write Through the Middle & Stop at the End 

Good, because we’re almost done. We talked at the beginning of this post about defining the purpose of any given project. As a freelance writer, you need to allow your copy to be aware of itself.

Ask Yourself:
  1. What’s the purpose of whatever it is you’re writing?
  2. How did you come to start writing your current project?
  3. Where will the project be once it’s finished?

The purpose of the blog post you’re reading is to dive deeper into copywriting and storytelling; I started this post with questions about whether or not storytelling fits into the world of copywriting, and I now know what this project will look like when it’s finished – but you’ll have to wait a bit longer for that.

I write straight from the outlines I create for myself, so copy flows out of my mind pretty quickly. If I’m writing self-aware copy, I ensure that I’m bringing my reader along for the ride. This is why, without being ultra-obvious and structured, I use writing tricks like ‘you’ll have to wait a bit longer for that’, or ‘still with me?’

My blog posts, along with copy I create for clients considers the reader ahead of the writer (tragic, right?) so a fluid story can be un-packed right before the readers eyes.

If this is a bit too meta nerdy for you, just construct an actual metaphorical person who either lives in your examples or who simply reads along with you as you write. If you work from home then you’ll get the added bonus of having a new friend to talk to who’s totally not imaginary and hey those are my pants Leonard take them off!

Writers Tell Stories for People

In the end (use terms like ‘in the end’ when you’re wrapping up an informal article or blog post), most people want something easy to read and understand, so talk directly to your reader. Carefully unrolling a story beneath your main points, using catchy words and settling everything down with an easy-to-follow path will endear you to existing readers and ultimately create more client work as well.

So tell me, in some capacity or another, should writers tell stories regardless of what they’re writing?

photo credit: Robert Croma via photopin cc

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