(This post originally appeared on the Resonance Content Marketing Blog.
Welcome to the Content Creator’s Toolbox, our series dedicated to helping all creators of all types of content keep those creative juices flowing. If you have a creativity question or challenge you’d like us to address in a future post, drop us a line!
I confess, I can be a little short-sighted sometimes. If I want to improve my writing, I tend to reach for a book on writing, without even considering the wealth of outstanding examples that I could be
stealing from reading purely for inspiration. And much of that inspiration can be found flowing from the pens of our colleagues just across the aisle from us at the local Barnes and Noble: the fiction writers.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a huge surge of interest in storytelling across the marketing community, and who is better at storytelling than, well, professional, published storytellers?
To illustrate this point, let me draw a few examples from one of my favorite short stories: Eudora Welty’s “Why I Live at the P.O.” It’s a quick read, so if you’re so inclined, go check it out. It’s okay — I’ll wait.
Oh, hey, you’re back already? Cool.
I dearly love this story for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that my own, um, “unique” family looks almost normal compared to the parade of characters we meet in Welty’s tale. But it also offers a wealth of hidden gems that we content marketers can stash away in our own trusty toolboxes.
1. Offer a Compelling Title
Spoiler Alert: The “P.O.” in the title stands for “post office.” Okay, it’s not much of a spoiler, since we find out that our heroine is a postmistress — at “the next to smallest P.O. in the state of Mississippi” — after just a few paragraphs. But then the real hook takes over — “Why on earth would anyone live at a post office?” — and keeps us reading until the very end.
Content Creator’s Takeaway: Sure, it’s good to convey in your titles exactly what the reader is getting … but mix it up now and then with an element of mystery. (Tweet this)
Example from the Resonance blog: Why I’m Taking Facebook and Twitter Off My Business Cards
2. Use Dialogue — and Dialect — to Develop Characters
Ever find yourself reading a long narrative passage in a short story or novel and find yourself relieved when the author returns to dialogue?
Dialogue not only interjects a human element into a story — it also quickens the pace to keep us engaged. Welty’s tale is mostly driven by dialogue, lovingly crafted with an unmistakable mid-20th-century Southern flavor.
She never has to tell us, for example, that the heroine’s younger sister is a narcissistic prima donna — she lets us hear it with lines like this:
“Never mind, you won’t be found dead in it, because it happens to be part of my trousseau, and Mr. Whitaker took several dozen photographs of me in it […] What on earth could Uncle Rondo mean by wearing part of my trousseau out in the broad open daylight without saying so much as ‘Kiss my foot,’ knowing I only got home this morning after my separation and hung my negligee up on the bathroom door, just as nervous as I could be?”
Content Creator’s Takeaway: Add life to your content by finding opportunities to replace narrative description with rich, character-building dialogue. (Tweet this)
Example from the Resonance blog: Content Creators, Embrace Your Inner Tim Gunn
3. Play With Format to Create Context
“So Papa-Daddy l-a-y-s down his knife and fork!”
“Stella-Rondo just calmly takes off this hat, I wish you could see it.”
There’s laying down a knife and fork, and then there’s l-a-y-i-n-g down a knife and fork. There are hats, and then there are hats.
Welty is a master at using these subtle tweaks to infuse even the simplest objects and actions with tremendous meaning — meaning we each define for ourselves.
Content Creator’s Takeaway: Play around with spelling, punctuation, spacing, and formatting to give flavor to important content elements. (Tweet this)
Example from the Resonance blog: What a Can of Red Bull Taught Me About Content Marketing
Okay, campers, your turn: What inspirations do you take from fictional books, stories, movies, plays, and how have they amped up your content creation mojo?
We’re giving away 20 copies of Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, the latest publication from social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk.
About the Author
A self-described “marketing nerd,” Rachel Parker, Owner and Chief Content Strategist of Resonance, works with businesses of all sizes to help them meet the challenge of connecting with today’s hard-to-reach customer.
Rachel has made Resonance the “one stop shop” for companies looking to get more out of their content marketing efforts. She’s also the host of the Content Marketing Podcast and a sought-after speaker, having presented to many of Houston’s major business and marketing organizations. Contact Rachel about speaking to your group or business.