Create winning copy with 4 principles of fiction writing

I’m a writer who earns her living working with organizations that depend upon clear communication leading to a desired behavior. In my role as a copywriter, I wrote an essay for LinkedIn and share it here:

As copywriters, we strive to choose words and craft sentences that are engaging and persuasive. By adhering to four key principles of writing good fiction, you can transport the end user to a world you’ve created and take your reader where you want them to go.

1. It’s all about the story.

“The world is made of stories, not atoms,” wrote Muriel Rukeyser. Think about your favorite brand and its most recent campaign. There’s a good chance it’s the story that captured you.

Exposition. Conflict. Resolution. Exposition equals establishing an irresistible setting or character. Conflict means presenting the problem or question. Solution is offering the call to action or benefit

2. Show, don’t tell.

This fiction writing mantra transfers most easily into the realm of copywriting, because we focus on the visual whole and not only the linear line of text.

Distill your copy to its spicy, active voice essence. Blend it with savvy design. Imagine the word or words as graphic elements. Insist each word work for its place on the “page.” Offer up something surprising and you’re showing the story in the strongest and most intriguing way.

3. Know your subject.

In fiction, every character needs a back story. Only thin slices of it earn their way into the final story, but all of it is essential to create fully-realized characters.

Back story also is vital in your copy. Work with your colleagues to reveal exactly what needs to be accomplished. Find out everything you can about the topic. Dig out nuggets from every source: What is the organization’s history? What’s on their Twitter feed? How are they viewed against their competition in a Google search?

Just as in fiction writing, most of this will not go into the final copy, but all of it informs your choices. Go deep and you will see what makes the product, service, company, or organization distinctive and warranting attention.

4. The more you read the better you write.

Good fiction writers are fierce readers. It’s research.

Everything you read can inspire your copywriting. When reading prose, take note of how the author chooses words, crafts sentences, builds tension, and constructs a story arc. “Read” classic ad campaigns and explore what is lauded now. Set aside a few minutes each day to sample what’s getting attention on the web. Deconstruct your favorite brochures in terms of verbs, images, color palette.

And when you have the “dang-wish-I’d-done-that” moment, pay attention.

Apply what you observe to your copywriting. Play around with those fresh words. Chip away at the chunks of content. See how all of it can inform and inspire your own work.

Follow these tenets of good fiction writing when creating your copy, and you’ll capture the keen voice, accurate tone, and luminous attitude needed to produce best-seller-list-worthy content.

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