We’ve written before about the elements of fiction that can be incorporated into marketing content. Essentially, the principles of complication, resolution, and character can turn dull, monotonous web copy into sparkling, interest-piquing prose. Here’s an illustration.
Consider these two paragraphs, for the fictional Hydroplaning Awareness Foundation (HAF):
One: Hydroplaning occurs when standing water prevents tires from properly dispersing water. As little as half an inch of water can cause a vehicle to hydroplane. If one or more tires lose contact with the road during hydroplaning, a vehicle may become difficult to control and can lead to accidents or vehicle damage. Drivers can prevent hydroplaning by keeping tires properly inflated, buying new tires as needed and avoiding standing water.
Two: The first time I drove after getting my license, it was raining. Not hard, but it had been coming down all day. Still, I’d promised my little sister I’d take her out for ice cream without our parents the first day I could. Halfway to Friendly’s, I hit water and lost control—the car wouldn’t do what I wanted. I slammed the brakes, yanked the wheel, and hit a tree. The car was totaled, but my sister and I escaped with just bruises. If I’d known how little water it takes to hydroplane (and how quickly I could ruin my only ride to school) I would have driven a lot more carefully.
What’s Your Point?
In the first paragraph, we get straightforward facts about hydroplaning: what it is, how to prevent it, etc. But detached from any meaningful context, this paragraph is kind of a snoozer. In the second paragraph, we have a story about what moved the speaker to found HAF.
This story has complication (the rain and the hydroplaning), implied resolution (the founding of HAF), and character (the speaker, who could have hurt herself and her sister). These elements give the reader a reason to care about the issue at hand.
This isn’t to say, of course, that facts or statistics have no place in marketing copy. They do. But in order for a reader to readily process and interpret them, facts need to appear within an established context. Following paragraph two, the founder of HAF might include the facts from the first paragraph, possibly in a bulleted list:
- Happens when tires cannot disperse water properly.
- Can occur in as little as half an inch of water.
- Can happen when even one tire loses contact with the road.
- Can cause accidents and vehicle damage.
- Can be prevented by maintaining tires and avoiding standing water.
Stakes in Writing
In fiction, as in marketing, a lot boils down to what’s at stake. If a character has nothing to lose or gain from a situation, the reader will be bored. If a character has a lot at stake (e.g. her life, her sister’s life, and her car), and if those stakes can be transferred to the reader (e.g. the reader’s life, sister, and car), the reader is likely to connect and engage with the copy.
And engaged readers are more likely to take action.
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