When I was little, story time was one of my favorite times. One of my absolute fondest memories of story time was when my fourth grade teacher read “The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles” every afternoon to the class. I’ve always been one for escaping the present through a great story and many people aren’t any different. In order to help your readers identify with the content that you publish, its important to develop complex characters, set the stage for what you’ll be discussing and ultimately solve the problem of the protagonist. Seems like a lofty task to accomplish in 500 to 1000 words, but once you have the concepts down, you’ll easily be able to create compelling blog content that will establish a loyal readership.
Know the characters in your story.
“Don’t try to visualize the great mass audience. Every reader is a different person.” This quote, from William Zinsser’s book, On Writing Well, offers us great insight into easily identifying with your audience persona. Developing complex characters that your reader will identify with is the key to a successful blog. Whenever I sit down to write creatively, I always make it a point to develop a character profile. Character profiles (or buyer personas, as we refer to them in the inbound world) are documents that are developed by taking the time to understand how that fictional persona thinks, acts and makes decisions. Because everyone is driven by events in their life, its important to reference at least a small portion of their history in order to really understand how their character has developed.
Set the Stage.
All great stories start with a memorable beginning that allows the reader to identify where in time the story has occurred and provide a reference to what was happening at that time. As an example, explore some of the most famous introductory quotes from popular canonical novels:
- It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984.
- It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.
- I am an invisible man. —Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man.
All of these introductions provide the reader with an immediate frame of reference. Whether you quote someone famous, begin with a story, or jump straight into your topic – you must begin with a powerful statement that gives your reader a sense for what to expect. Orwell positioned his famous novel, 1984, perfectly, as the reader can easily identify that the time they’re referring to is entirely out of the norm. Dickens chooses a more lengthy description, perfectly situating the reader in the midst of a tumultuous time. However you choose to begin, be sure that it helps the reader to better understand a moment that will provide perfect reference for the story to come.
Solve the Protagonist’s Problem.
In all great literary works, the protagonist runs into a bit of an issue. Whether it’s Ishmael taking on a fish far larger than he can handle, an impossible love affair between two completely incompatible characters or just a simple story of a user issue solved by your product or service, make sure that you take the time in your blog, after the story has developed, to solve the problem. The idea of “Happily Ever After” is something that most people have come to know. Your readers seek to read stories and resources that provide their own version of a happy ending. Be sure to address the issue in detail and provide some sort of resolution by the end in order to bring it full circle and give the reader the “warm, fuzzy” feeling they’ll inevitably gain from reading your marketing story.
Wrap it up.
“Your readers hear the laborious sound of cranking. They notice what you are doing and how bored you are by it. They feel the stirrings of resentment. Why didn’t you give more thought to how you were going to wind this thing up? Or are you summarizing because you think they’re too dumb to get the point? Still, you keep cranking. But the readers have another option. They quit.” – Zinsser, on Conclusions.
The ending of a story is as crucial as that first sentence. Mess up the ending and your readers may never return. The wrap up is easy in concept, but much more difficult in execution. You must take your character, your setting, your problem, your resolution and address them all in a compelling and concise manner that ends your story and leaves your reader feeling as though there were a purpose behind your writing (because there always is). The conclusion can’t be boring. The conclusion must offer up your perspective without sounding like a robotic recount of everything you’ve just discussed. In marketing it has to be even more, by offering up a call to action. (After all, why else are you writing this blog than to get your readers to engage further with your brand?) This article from Copyblogger provides great insight on how to “Go out in style”.
The most important thing to remember is to be yourself in your writing. Your readers come to learn from you and hear your story. They know you’re an expert and they trust you to be their resource. By establishing a great story to go along with your useful information, your readers will be enamored by your topics and hanging on your every word. By the time you finish, they’ll be putty in your hands. Use your story to develop a more loyal readership by creating the most compelling blog content you possibly can.