3 storytelling techniques to jazz up your content.


-Hisham Wyne

Blah and boring content loses eyeballs faster than snow melts in a fire. But not all topics can be world-beaters. Here's how to add some frisson to your content even when the topic is vanilla.

Oh no. Floor tiles.

Why am I being asked to write about floor tiles? What’s special about them anyway? Would it make sense to drain that lovely inky-red bottle Malbec before attempting to write? It might add a certain reckless abandon to the copy. It might also lead it to roll off the rails, but it’s worth the risk.

Why would anyone in their right mind commission a website on floor tiles?

See what I did there? I got you reading. Here’s a fact of life if you’re a professional hack or someone who hammers out words for a living: you’re going to eventually have to write on a topic as boring as the weather forecast in Antarctica. Yup – it’s another 24 hours of snow.

During my writing career, I’ve filed features on anything from crabs, chocolate and Mario Testino’s pictures of Cara Delevigne to fire extinguishing foams and AC maintenance. And I’ve realised that if you can’t add a hint of spice to mundanity, you’ll bore yourself – and all your readers – to complete tears. And tears aren’t good for getting repeat work.

Making topics interesting is the only way feature writers pick up repeat work. And for web copywriters, it’s even more imperative to engage eyeballs and convert to sales. For everything is being monitored online: dwell times, bounce rates, conversions and sales. If the figures aren’t stacking up, your copy isn’t working. That’s not good news for getting more work.

 

So, without further ado, here are some tips to add a bit of frission to boring topics:

1. Your opening counts: See above. Most people make a snap decision on whether to read something or not. A reader’s first step is to give text a quick skim. That’s when they need to be hooked. If you haven’t got them in the first ten seconds, you don’t have them at all. Now, admittedly, I cheated in the introduction – by making it only tangentially relevant to the post below. But it still serves as a good example of how your opening really counts.

Remember that one of the most famous opening lines in literature is the succinctly gloomy “Maman died today” from Albert Camus’s Le’Etranger. Even people who actually haven’t read that book know that line.

2. Find out why it matters: Floor tiles. Yes, let’s take floor tiles again. If you’ve been commissioned to write them, they matter to someone.

There’s at least one person out there who wants to know about them. And that’s where you put down your writer’s pen and jam on the investigator’s fedora. You need to find out what makes floor tiles interesting to this niche audience. Is it how they look? Whether they’re suitable for his or her new home? What their pros and cons are compared to linoleum for a household full of children and pets?

Once you figure out what your reader wants to know, you also know the angle you’re going to take. So when you go back to writing that website on floor tiles, you’ll lead with “Floor tiles last 30% longer than linoleum and cost less.” And then go on talking about how they’re also easy to clean, and are safe for children. And suddenly, you’ve found a way to get people interested. Incidentally, this example is very close to a real life project I once wrote for a client.

3. Break the rhythm: Think of writing like jazz. The music is soothing, and aurally pleasing. But there’s just enough discord in the notes to keep you interested. Apply the same discord to your writing. Change up the rhythm. Don’t just keep writing in short snappy sentences. But neither take continuous recourse to long, verbose, winding constructs (like this one!). An effective way is to juxtapose the long with the short. If you’ve had a couple of longwinded paragraphs, it’s time for a series of shorter, snappier sentences. And if you’ve been truncating your sentences for a while, perhaps it’s time to throw in a nice descriptive chunk of prose. Keep it varied, and people will keep reading. Writing with rigid patterns is far too predictable to stay interesting for very long.

It's not a definitive guide, but  these three points will be a handy addition to your arsenal of tips and tricks. To further supercharge your words, see what other writers have to say here and here. Happy writing!......

AUTHOR BIO

Apart from being an award-winning copywriter and content consultant, Hisham Wyne is an internationally recognised MC, presenter, speaker and broadcaster who helps the world’s best-known brands create memorable occasions. During his time in the Middle East, Hisham has collaborated extensively with blue-chip companies including Twitter, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Harley-Davidson and Aston Martin, and helped government concerns such as the Dubai Internet City, in5 and the Dubai Design District. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.