Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Think Like a Soap Opera Writer to Create Compelling Content

By Cheryl Antier

Want to create compelling content that draws people to your blog or Website like bees to honey, peanut butter to chocolate or people to the scene of an accident? Then it's time you ignore all the "good, solid advice" you'll hear from well-meaning writing instructors and coaches. Instead, it's time to start thinking like a soap opera writer to create compelling content so that visitors to your Website or blog come thronging to see what's coming next...

In case you've never watched a soap opera (or at least won't admit it in public...) let me show you what I mean...

In this week's episode, Jack falls for Sally, who is married to Robert, who is in reality a spy for a foreign government... And while Mary lies in her hospital room, fighting for her life and that of her unborn child, she begins to remember the car accident that sent her to the hospital... perhaps never to walk again... and the driver of the car... it couldn't have been him... could it?

Okay, I'm exaggerating... a little.

The point is, millions of people tune into these shows every single day - and have, off and on, for over 30 years now.

Which means the writers must be doing something right.

Why do people watch them, and more than that, get completely caught up in the make believe lives, loves and disasters?

Because they're exiting... compelling... the characters are larger than life, fighting for what they believe in, daring to the do the things we wish we could do, living the kind of lives (minus all the hatred, attempted murders and downright corrupt behavior of the meanest characters, perhaps)... that we wish we could live.

But more than that, the writing reaches us on some deep level, touches into our own hopes and fears, wishes and dreams, wants and needs...

So how does your content measure up?

If it's a little flat compare to a soap opera, keep reading - because I'm going to tell you how you too can create content that keeps your readers coming back for more...

Lets start with what you readers need...

What are they really looking for when they come to your Website or blog?

Do they want excitement? Inspiration? Advice? Encouragement? Information?

The list could go on and on. The point is... whatever it is they're looking for, it's your job to give it to them.

What kind of Role Do You Play?

Are you the hero? The teacher? The advisor? The rock star? Knowing what role your readers expect you to play is very important. Not only in the tone and voice of your content, but also in your company's brand experience.

And although that's the topic for an entirely different article, it's important that you give your customers what they expect when they interact with you, and that they get the "entire experience" of your brand.

70% of the work and research that goes into your content should come from your research into what your customers want, and into making sure you're giving your audience what they want.

The other 30% should be the delivery...

And that's where thinking like a soap opera writer comes in. Soap operas are long, often complicated dramatic stories that are broken down into smaller stories and even smaller chunks of time...

Here's an example...

According to soap opera digest, the show "Days Of Our Lives" was first aired in 1965 on NBC. The storyline focuses on the trials and tribulations of the Horton, Brady, and Di Mera families and other residents of the fictional town of Salem...

The show is written so viewers can get caught up in a particular story line very quickly, and without needing to know the past history. Instead, you can sit down and figure out quickly who the hero or heroine is, who is up to no good, and what struggles are taking place.

When you're writing your content, are you writing it so that someone can get caught up in your words right away - without needing to know all about you, your history or your entire business model?

The next thing soap opera writers are brilliant at is creating a sense of drama, of tension in their story lines...

Now it might be a little easier for a soap opera - because you've got all those deep, dark, basic emotions seething, and burning and boiling just beneath the surface... passionate glances across a crowded room, hot stolen kisses and the dark desires of forbidden love...

Which admittedly can be difficult to insert into your sales or marketing materials.

But there are ways of doing it if you take the time to think about it, and write like a soap opera writer.

Tension comes from unresolved emotions or issues. It comes from problems and pain. It comes from wanting something we don't have.

These are all things you can use in your writing.

And of course, in every good soap opera, there comes a time when the story line must end, and we get to experience the power and joy in the triumph of good over evil, and celebrate as true love wins out.

But not for long. Because usually even as the music soars and the camera moves for a close-up of our lovers, and we watch as their lips part, their eyes start to close and they move into each other's arms share true love's kiss...

...A dark and somber figure moves out of the shadows, radiating hatred and plotting the downfall of one or both of our main characters...


So our feelings of tension, start to mount again... So we're suddenly thrust back into the stress of the new situation...

Because things would get pretty boring, pretty quickly if everything was always perfect, if the sun always shone, if the birds always sang, if the ending was always happy - like in a Disney movie.

So here again is where you can take your cue from the soap opera writers.

Because whatever you're writing about... Whatever barriers you're helping your reader to blast through... Whatever problems you're showing them how to solve... Whatever skills you're teaching them...

Eventually you will have written as much about the subject as you can - or want to.

And it will be time to end that particular story line.

Which leaves your reader wondering... Wait a minute! Is that all there is? But what happens next?

...Where's your cliff hanger?

What are you going to say to get your reader to come back for more?

That's the last bit of advice you can - and should - learn from the soap opera writers.

Always have a cliffhanger... Give them just a hint of what's to come... The next big villain in their lives, or their career, or their business...

The next problem they're going to be pitted against. A problem that you... might... just have the solution for... If they stay tuned for the next episode... (cue the music, fade to black...)

Cheryl Antier is a professional writer and the director of the Writer's Business Academy. To find out more about how you can create the kind of content that will keep your readers, clients and customers coming back for more, visit the Writer's Business Academy and sign up for our free monthly newsletter as well as tons of free resources for writers, authors, coaches and anyone who writers their own content.

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