Did you know that it’s not only novelists that can use the tools of fiction? Fiction tools are a secret weapon I love to use to craft unforgettable stories that make people want to read on and on and on times infinity. Tools of fiction are equally applicable to brand and business writing- in fact, writing is all the more stronger.
Fiction-esque storytelling is a way to bring the blandest, most boring of content pieces to … well, maybe not to life, but they’ll be much more accessible and engaging. Stories are noticeably more memorable and relatable than any model, formula or diagram* and are a sure-fire way to connect with an audience.
Stories are powerful veritably littered anywhere across a piece of content, but for a real sucker punch, start a piece with a story using an old school structure like:
Goal- what you want
Motivation- why you want it
Conflict- what’s in the way
Here’s an example from fiction:
Goal- Charlie wants a golden ticket
Motivation- A visit to the chocolate factory provides a life changing opportunity to break the shackles of poverty
Obstacle- Charlie’s poverty means his chances of winning a ticket are zilch.
Goal- A person wants to feed their family nutritious, delicious wholefoods made from scratch
Motivation- This will enhance their children’s’ health and vitality
Obstacle- The golden ticket machine to make their goal a reality costs more than $2k
See how clearly and beautifully this could roll out in a piece of content? In that business example (that I whipped up as easily as my you-know-what whips up a green smoothie) the next couple of paragraphs would demonstrably share how to overcome that obstacle of cost such as an interest-free payment feature and cost savings over time.
Fancy another storytelling structure?
It’s a rare content plan of mine that doesn’t include some form of case study. They’re also often a cause of a smidge of consternation. Case study? With annotations and citations? With data and hypotheses and qualitative and quantitative and lions and tigers and bears, oh my? Um, no. When I talk case study, I mean showcasing the work you do in the context of the work you do. Easy peasy- particularly when it incorporates one of the most popular (and effective, which is why it is so popular!) fiction structures ever in the history of telling stories- the hero’s journey.
You’ll recognise the hero’s journey from your favourite books and movies, and they’re no less a fabulous tool for brand storytelling too. Here’s one I prepared earlier, much, much earlier, but the basic structure I’ve modified for my Blue51 brand of case study storytelling is person, problem, my approach to solving it and the solution. This is the bare bones hero’s journey:
Introduction to the hero of the story: ie a client not feeling their most vibrant self and examples of how that manifested ie anxiety, decision-fatigue, not knowing what to wear, avoiding social situations.
Inciting incident: what made them decide enough’s enough and reach out to you? What was their breaking point?
Your solution: ie how working with you addressed the issues you raised in the introduction. This could include testimonials or hard data from the person ie ‘after working with me, Holly said she is ’now excited for what each day will bring’.
Conclusion– this is your Call To Action, basically where you say ‘you can have the same feeling as Holly, book a chat with me now.’
The other way fiction writers utterly nail structure is not being tied to a chronological approach.
Think about those conversations you’ve had with a preschooler where they tell you in excruciating detail about their day. ‘First I got up and then I had breakfast and then I put on my shoes and then I brushed my teeth and then and then and then… why are you rocking in the corner throwing breadcrumbs at yourself?’ Fiction writers might take their ending and stick it in the second chapter. The beginning? Hell, they might move to the ending. They impose an order that suits the narrative. In terms of writing for your brand, I must insist most vehemently that you keep your audience and your goals (for the piece of writing but also for your broader content strategy AND business overall) front of mind, but that’s not to say that your order can’t suit the narrative and your audience. The main consideration is you write in a way that’s logical to your reader and makes them want to keep on reading.
‘Show, don’t tell,’ is often bleated out as writing advice, but this can be tricky when we write for our brands. Often, we can’t make use of devices such as characters, scene-setting or dialogue to an extent that allows us to show rather than tell, but by George, we can use personality. Try and stop us! Use Power Words to make content vibrant and compelling- these are a list of words used by copywriters and advertisers proven to elicit a response. They include (gorgeous!) words such as swoon-worthy, unbelievable, terrifying, instantly, bold and gorgeous- funnily enough.
Fiction writers also give words life through sensory detail. While it’s not always possible to pump our blog posts, email campaigns and social media captions full of the five senses, a sprinkling of a couple of them is always a good idea. Sight doesn’t always have to be a blanket description of something, spelling out the colours and dimensions. It can include textures, light and movement. Scent doesn’t have to be a fact or a simile- rather than something like ‘smells like peppermint’ it can describe the response or the atmosphere such as warm, fresh, clean, stale, heavy. And so on through taste, touch and sound.
This is (clearly!) just a quick share of some of my favourite ways to use my fiction writing skills in my professional writing life. What I haven’t included is the sheer joy that comes with a massive brainstorming session and the creativity that thinking like a fiction writer gives to my writing for brands- my own and those of my clients. There’s really nothing like it!
Tell me, which brand’s writing do you find most compelling?
* Gosh, don’t get me started on the proliferation of GD venn diagrams that are (dis)gracing content of late.
I love writing about communications, writing, life in business and life in general! If there’s something specific you’d like me to cover in my writing, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help, or address it in an upcoming blog post or on my social media platforms.