To inform. To instruct. To persuade. To entertain. These are the four purposes of writing. But how do we make sure that our purpose is effectively executed in words? It’s all a matter of style, writing style (or genre) that is. And the better we master the six styles of writing, the better we become at crafting sentences that achieve one’s objective. The first of this two-part post discussed and demonstrated the Expository, Descriptive and Persuasive genres. In Part 2, we will see where, when and how we can apply the Poetic, Technical and Narrative genres.
4. POETIC WRITING: ELEVATE TO GREAT
You do poetry
Quite a lot
Be it a White Paper
Or a tweet
You are minimalising
Just like a poet
Taut and sweet
Homing in to clearness
Honing into conciseness
Hoping your persuasiveness
Compels the head and/or heart
Into affirmative responsiveness
So give your poetications
A little consideration
By heeding these top 3 recommendations:
Use the figurative where you can
Breathe life into dead facts and the data
Use the descriptive, understand?
Include the five common senses in your plan
All bring your reader into the picture
Use the narrative, it kills bland
And Holy Wow!
Story meets a primordial need in every culture
So keep it short
Even at 10,000 words
Your inner poet
Will make you make sure
5: NARRATIVE WRITING: WHAT’S THE STORY?
Once upon a laptop …
The copywriter chooses this all time classic opener to set up the theme of this section. But just as he is about to complete his second sentence, the coffee percolating on the stove lures him away to the promise of a much desired long black espresso. This is the copywriter’s tonic of choice to get his brain cells firing for the job at hand. One sip and he’s ready to roll. As he follows his own advice to visualise the target reader, You appear across his desk. You lean forward with the question, ‘so what do you mean by “narrative writing”, how do I do it and can I have a cup of tea instead?’
And so begins this post, a la the narrative writing style. The copywriter explains that narrative is a dramatic account connecting events or experiences into a sequence that takes the reader on a memorable journey to a satisfying conclusion. This account can be either fact or fiction. The effect is experiential. The result: eventful, meaningful and memorable.
You ask, ‘what are the rules to this style of writing?’
The copywriter types on his keyboard that it all depends on the purpose of your writing. Is it to inform, to instruct, to persuade or to entertain? As long as your content is not dishonest or unfounded, you’re good to go.
The narrative style of writing is commonly known as storytelling, and you’ll know it in the form of novels, biographies, historical accounts, essays, screenplays, poems, editorial and even at times, web content and advertising.
‘How do I know when I’m writing in the narrative style?’ you wonder, now sprawled on the chaise lounge with a probing look on your face.
The copywriter points out that he has just shown it in the way he’s writing this post. When he is about to list the thirteen characteristics of narrative writing, it dawns on him that these characteristics should really be divided into two categories. He decides to use a common narrative device, a metaphor.
You say, ‘I’ve heard that word “metaphor” but what does it mean?’
The copywriter explains that a metaphor is likening an abstract idea (such as structure) to something concrete and physical (like bones).
‘I see!’, you exclaim.
That’s exactly the effect you want, enthuses the copywriter — to enable the reader to see what the idea looks like. It’s called “writing pictures”. Of course, there are the other four senses to get the reader into the picture, but let’s get back to the two categories. There is the structure (the bones that hold the story up) and there are the elements (the body, mind and spirit that animate a story into a living, breathing experience for the reader).
Before he can continue any further, a rumble and growl echoes from the belly. Moments later, his mind is invaded by mouth-watering thoughts of Sri Lanka fish cutlet balls and Chinese egg rolls; coconut roti with onion and chilli chutney; Watalappam coconut custard pudding; and sweet honey cups of Ceylon milk tea. This can only mean one thing — it’s time for lunch and left-over cajun chicken and vegetables with soba noodles is on the menu. Not exactly Sri Lankan, but Sri Cajun promises to be as good today as it was last night.
‘Tell me about the structure and bones first’, you insist as you bask in the sun now streaming through the studio window.
Structure of a story is made up of:
1. Plot (a sequence of events that make up story)
A copywriter’s food for thought side-tracks into thoughts of food
2. Introduction (the set up of story, character and theme)
The copywriter and you discuss the meaning of narrative writing
3. Rising Action (a high-point in the action that leads into the story’s turning-point)
The copywriter explains narrative style when his hunger transports him back to Sri Lankan cuisine
4. Climax (the turning point that leads the character(s) to a revelation, realisation, discovery or epiphany)
You discover the meaning and value of narrative writing
5. Falling Action (transitional event pointing to an ending of the story)
You enjoyed this discussion and will share it with friends
6. Resolution (a conclusion that embodies the climactic effect)
You disappear a little wiser and the copywriter tucks into his Sri Cajun lunch.
Elements of a story include:
- Conflict (tension between problem/solution, cause/effect, question/answer, for/against)
You ask questions, the copywriter answers them
- Characterisation (it can be animal, vegetable, mineral, human or idea)
You and the copywriter
- Setting (space — physical, psychological or geographic — and time — past, present or future)
Inside the copywriter’s studio in present time
- Theme (message, proposition, premise)
Storytelling as a highly effective means of conveying ideas
- Point of View (the writer’s, the character’s, the client’s, the idea’s)
The copywriter’s (as the driver of the story) and the story style (as the vehicle for showing how it works)
- Sequencing (one event leads to the next in some kind of narrative logic)
A beginning (you appear to challenge the copywriter), a middle (food appears to challenge the copywriter) and an end (the copywriter overcomes the odds to achieve his goal)
- Transitions (turning-points along the way that create story developments and move story forward)
Coffee break and lunch break
The copywriter looks up from his laptop to see You slowly fading away with a parting ‘thanks I’ll share that around’. The blogger’s word-limit has been reached and so too, Your attention-limit. He has only seconds left to finish off this post before You disappear completely. He writes every story’s famous last words: THE END
6. TECHNICAL WRITING: THIS IS FOR DUMMIES
In three words: simplify the complex.
Although this is not unique to technical writing, it is the main aim of the game. If actions need expertise or skill to perform them, technical writing is the enabler.
Enable a set of actions on the part of the audience in pursuit of a defined goal.
The Goal (TICK YOUR PICK):
[ ] software application
[ ] operating industrial equipment
[ ] preventing accidents
[ ] safely consuming a packaged food
[ ] assessing a medical condition
[ ] complying with a law
[ ] coaching a sports team
[ ] Infinite range of possible activities
This usually parallels the product/service development life-cycle. And it likes to come in sixes.
- Identification of needs, audience(s) and scope
- Research and content development
- Testing — review and revision
- Delivery and production
- Evaluation and feedback
While that is the method by which to practise technical writing, I’d like to add an additional dimension to this called:
Integrated Technical Communications (ITC):
The new aim of of the game based on the good old Integrated Marketing Communications’ strategic point-of-view.
Show how user support, training, customer service, marketing, knowledge sharing and other disciplines intersect.
Six Level Processes:
Bring technical communications to the boardroom table alongside marketing, public relations and internal communications.