Why You Should Write Blog Articles Like a Screenwriter
Ashley is a content writer and brand developer. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from the bizarre world of on-camera acting to the practice courts of NBA basketball players to the virtual meetings of inbound marketers. Today she specializes in building memorable brand voices online, with a focus on the travel & tourism, e-commerce and tech industries.
People like to be entertained.
And guess what – your customers count as people.
Little has changed since our cavemen predecessors sat around the fire, chomped on nuts and drew on walls. Our fascination with story has even seeped into our modern vernacular: "Netflix and Chill" anyone?
Yet companies continue to struggle with how to tell stories as related to what they do. Especially, those working in stereotypically dry industries.
How to Write Blog Articles Like a Screenwriter
In this article, we'll reveal how (and why) to approach your blog articles like a storyteller.
Since the modern creators of TV shows and movies are some of history's best, we'll be referring to screenwriting as a frame of reference.
Our End Goal: Attract and nurture better consumer relationships through story.
Let's get started...
1. Follow The Four Pillars of Storytelling
Storytelling is nothing more than a retelling of events. You tell stories everyday without realizing it; whether it's recounting a crazy meeting at work or an awkward conversation with the mailman.
What's interesting? Two people can tell exactly the same story (i.e. you and a coworker), only to receive two completely different responses.
You may assume "the best actor" would naturally tell "the best story." While it's true – vocal inflection, vocal intonation and hand gestures are all important to verbal storytelling – they can accomplish very little in and of themselves. According to Muse Storytelling, every good story has FOUR PILLARS:
The Four Pillars
- People: A character the audience connects with and cares about.
- Places: Where the story happens. More unexpected and unusual places help increase the intrigue of your story.
- Purpose: Some message or truth behind the story, the reason it's being told.
- Plot: The structure and arrangement of the elements. A strong plot ensures listeners are engaged from the beginning to end.
The most entertaining blog articles are structured using the four pillars – even if its just the introduction; serving to draw the reader into a more technical post.
2. Show THEN Tell
Screenwriters take storytelling to the next level by showing then telling. Obviously, these writers have several creative tools at their disposal (i.e. actors, sets and costumes) that allow the use of less words.
But you can still use the same techniques to build interest in blog articles. Recently, a few of our team members have been re-watching The West Wing. Side Note: Does Rob Lowe ever age?! TV show creator Aaorn Sorkin is a MASTER at building suspense using Show Then Tell.
Check-out how he builds suspense at the beginning of this episode:
:: SCENE 1 :::
A cab pulls up to the Whitehouse.
A mysterious woman steps out – white envelope in hand – face hidden from view.
:: SCENE 2 :::
Charlie greets the woman (we see the back of her head).
Charlie appears pensive, solemn, and awkward.
:: SCENE 3 :::
The pair walks quickly through the Whitehouse (we can't see their faces).
The camera shifts from the envelope in the woman's hand to the nervous faces of nearby staff members, leaning out of chairs to get a good look at the envelope.
:: SCENE 4 :::
The woman hands the president the envelope (we still can't see her face).
We see the president's face, as he says, "Is this what I think it is?"
:: END SCENE ::
In the above example, NOT a word has been spoken. Yet we are 100 percent captivated by the story unfolding before us: Who is the mysterious woman? What is in the envelope? We HAVE to know!
When it comes to blog writing, Shown Then Tell means creating an introduction that hints at your purpose for writing.
For example, say you're writing an article about a product that would be useful to advertising teams. You might begin by describing several creatives spitballing ideas around a table – what's the overall mood of the room? What objects are on the table? How long have they been there? – before tying the narrative into your main message:
Ex. Everyday advertising executives around the country participate in brainstorming sessions that last late into the night. They consider buying stock in the liquid energy drinks that continually replace their dinners. But that's all about to change – thanks to (insert amazing product).
A Caveat: Keep narratives short or you will risk losing your reader. After all, this IS the Internet. The exception would be creatively written evergreen pieces and sales pages.
3. Use More Visuals
You may not have "the big screen" on your side, but you do have "the little screen." Videos are now being watched more than ever before, and it's happening on smartphones.
Ericsson predicts mobile video traffic will grow 55 percent per year until 2020. According to Cisco, it would take an individual over five million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks every single month in 2020.
Here are some ideas for incorporating video into your articles
- Package consumer testimonials into videos using the 4 Pillars (mentioned above).
- Write and produce a fictitious series with a protagonist who benefits form your product/service.
- Create "behind the scenes" videos that outline your process.
Not ready to jump into video? Consider incorporating more LARGE and HIGH-QUALITY images into your posts. Look for compelling photos you are unlikely to find on other blogs ... Or better yet, make your own using your iPhone.
4. Write From The Heart
Finally, the best lesson to take away from screenwriters is to write from the heart.
Content marketing has officially gone mainstream. Companies writing articles "to get traffic" are a dime a dozen. In order to stand-out you need something unique: Perspective.
The best screenplays rarely come from writers who sat down with the goal of writing a blockbuster. Sure, it's fine to write technicals posts that are helpful to your readers. However, the more you can get in touch with WHY you do what you do, the better your posts will be.
Tell The Stories That Need to Be Told
Whether you realize it or not, you are currently sitting on a goldmine of stories. They may be quirky, they may be poignant, or they may be completely mundane.
Regardless, tapping into those stories and sharing them with customers is EXACTLY what will separate you from the competition.
Ready to start attracting and nurturing better relationships through the written word? Talk to us about your inbound marketing story goals.