Killer Content Tips from Four Masters of Fiction
BY: BRENT BARNHART ON FRIDAY, JULY 25, 2014
Comparing fiction writing to web content is apples and oranges.
We don’t pick up a classic novel or a recent bestseller because we’re interested in making a purchase or educating ourselves. Likewise, we don’t seek out business blogs in hopes of a deep emotional connection or high-brow entertainment.
While most literary writers may hone their craft to entertain, educate, or even enlighten, there doesn't have to be such a deep divide between their content and our own as business owners. There’s no reason why we have to throw literary tradition aside as we craft our own content because it’s deemed “boring” or “formal.” In fact, there’s quite a lot we can glean from the literary world when it comes to the craft.
Consider the styles and secrets from literary greats both past and present and how you can implement such techniques on your own blog. While such tips may not win you a Pulitzer Prize, they will certainly aid in you growing your readership and capturing their attention.
Ernest Hemingway - Show, don’t tell.
Hemingway was a master of American letters through his numerous novels (including a Nobel Prize in 1954 for The Old Man and the Sea), dozens of short stories and non-fiction tales of machismo. His straightforward style and sparse descriptions were a reflection of his no-nonsense personality, all of which would inspire writers for years to come.
Hemingway’s “iceberg theory” helped revolutionize American literature, but can also provide a bit of inspiration to today’s bloggers as well. A straightforward, to-the-point approach to blogging can be greatly appreciated in an era where time seems scarce and attention spans are low. There’s no reason not to get straight to the point, especially in an era where we can’t afford to waste our own time or the time of our readers. In addition, Hemingway’s journalistic approach also points to the importance of facts. Statistics and examples are always a plus when it comes to bolstering our blogs, as long as they don’t distract from the message at hand.
Stephen King - Write, write, and write some more.
Often heralded as the master of horror, Stephen King is an author that needs little to no introduction. While his title as a “literary master” may be a point of debate, there’s no questioning King’s sheer output as an author. With over 50 published novels (with sales of over 350 million worldwide) and 200 short stories to his name, King is one of the most prolific published authors of all-time.
King’s work-ethic may serve as an inspiration to just about any writer, fiction or otherwise. Bloggers can take note of King’s advice to becoming a great author, that is to “read and write four to six hours a day,” further stating that “you cannot find the time for that, you can't expect to become a good writer.”
Such advice may seem harsh or hyperbolic, yet serve as a reminder the importance of hard work and consistency. Despite the post frequency being a somewhat illusive statistic, it’s well-established that businesses that blog more receive more traffic to their sites. The constant creation of content is not only important to your readership, but also for the sake of SEO.
JD Salinger - Speak their language.
Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye has become one of the most popular novels of all time since its publication in 1951. A staple of many high-school classrooms, Salinger’s infamous coming-of-age story continues to resonate with audiences today, selling approximately 250,000 copies per year with more than 65 million copies sold since publication. Banned time and time again, Catcher was the center of a number of controversies upon its release, mostly stemming from the colorful language of the novel’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield.
Such language managed to not only capture the attitude of dialect of youth during Salinger’s era, but also resonated with readers who had never encountered such natural, charming dialogue. Likewise, it’s important for business bloggers to resonate with and speak the language of their audience. This means not only talking about the stories that they want to hear, but also delivering them in a way that’s natural and shows that you’re part of their world. This doesn’t necessarily mean filling your blog with jargon, but rather by establishing trust and understanding with your industry.
George RR Martin - Keep them guessing.
HBO’s Game of Thrones is one of the most popular and controversial shows on television today, based on Martin’s bestselling A Song of Ice and Fire series. The series has become infamous for its colorful cast of characters, gratuitous violence and bizarre, unexpected character deaths. Martin’s storytelling, which relies of jumping from the point of view of various characters, keeps readers on the edge of their seats and reminds them that no character is safe in his high-fantasy world.
Similarly, you should keep your readership guessing and avoid writing the same articles over and over. This may require you to cover a myriad of topics within your industry, or perhaps trying to implement different types of content. Bear in mind the popularity of formats such as lists (think: Buzzfeed) and reviews; "content" doesn't not always mean a five paragraph article.
Bloggers can also take a page out of Martin's book by covering controversial topics or discussions every now and then. While it doesn't pay to be a bully or antagonist, controversial subject matter will almost always result in reaction and engagement. Just make sure you don't go picking any fights.
The Bottom Line
You don’t have to be Shakespeare to build a strong blog for your small business. Instead, simply consider how you can switch up your style, subject matter and work ethic to craft killer content in the future.
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