Welcome to another edition of Top 10 Tuesdays, a semi-regular series introducing you to some of the finest bloggers around, my fellow winners of a Top 10 Blogs for Writers award.
This week meet A. Victoria Mixon. She gives spot-on advice to authors and aspiring authors at victoriamixon.com. Her new book is The Art and Craft of Fiction: A Practitioner’s Manual.
Now, here’s Victoria:
You’re in a really bad bind.
You’ve got a business—a product or a service—and you need to get the word out about what you offer. Not only that, but you’re up against an implacable deadline: either you start moving revenue fast, or you start moving out of your office space.
You’re smart, creative, driven. Cornered.
You’re the ideal fiction protagonist!
And this is how you must think of yourself when you blog, because readers of all stripes and colors, fiction and nonfiction alike, read for only two reasons:
- to learn something they need to learn about survival
- to be reassured live is worth surviving
Readers want to know how others have made it, so they know they can make it, too.
What do you have to offer that can help your readers survive? Who’s out there you’ve already helped? Whose story can you tell?
I contract part-time for a writing studio that sends me case studies for a large (very large) and visible (possibly the most visible) computer corporation online, which this corporation uses for marketing.
They ask happy customers to fill out a questionnaire explaining exactly how they use the products and services, under what circumstances, and with what very specific details. They ask them what they did before, what inspired them to make the switch to the corporation, how it works for them now, and what their future plans are. They ask them for a quote.
Then they send the whole kit-&-kaboodle to me, and I turn it into a piece of copywriting—a nonfiction story.
Readers love this stuff.
- HOOK: There’s a protagonist—the happy customer and, even more specifically, the contact at the happy customer company, the named and titled individual who supplies the quote for the ending.
- DEVELOPMENT: This protagonist has needs, extremely pressing needs bounded by their resources, their financial situation, their deadlines, their geographical, business, or creative limits.
This protagonist has a backstory—what they were doing before they switched to this corporation—and a goal—where they hope to go.
And in the middle of it all is their story, the exact circumstances and very specific details of what they do and how they do it using this corporation’s products and services, a story the reader can project themself into, a place made entirely of words where the reader imagines, That could be me.
- CLIMAX: Finally, this story has a premise—how the corporation’s products and services have changed this company’s life. That’s the real, subtle, fundamental reason this case study is written up, so it goes at the end: the contact’s quote about the corporation and what it means to be the happy customer.
It doesn’t matter whether or not you use this corporation’s technique of individual happy customer case studies for your marketing. Because every reader is a potential happy customer, so all you have to do is tell the one story—their story—from whatever angle or angles you’ve got. Teach them what they’re here to learn about survival.
- HOOK your reader with something that will surprise and intrigue them. Make it something to inspire their curiosity, something to make them just have to know more. This is how fiction writers send out the crook-neck cane from the wings and get the reader by the neck. Say something right up front your reader doesn’t know but needs to. You don’t have to make sense. Just make them curious.
- DEVELOP your reader’s story
Use the fiction writer’s techniques of backstory (where is your reader right now without you?), goal (where does your reader wish they were?), and most importantly needs (what are your reader’s most pressing needs, most overwhelming deadlines, most nerve-wracking limits?). Show them you understand what it’s like to be them. After all, you’re really just like them, aren’t you? Smart, creative, driven. Cornered?
The ideal protagonist.
Be exact about the circumstances your product or service addresses. Be very specific about the details. Write multiple posts, each one focused upon a different set of circumstances and a different hypothetical collection of details. Make your reader feel like they’re reading their own story.
- CLIMAX with the premise—the reason you’re writing this
Your company can help this reader survive. You have something this reader needs. That’s your point. Be sure you lead all the way through your post straight to it.
Then in the final sentences, give your reader that golden egg that means everything to them, a resolution. Put your all into the very last sentence of every single post, make it the most perfect sentence in the entire piece.
Give it a bit of resonance by referring back to that intriguing, inexplicable thing you said at the beginning.
Give it a classic beauty by making it simple and clear.
Give it a little extra something to make the reader feel good.
You want your reader to become a happy customer? Turn them into a happy protagonist.