Just to recap for those who have yet to read The 6 Genres of Copy Writing for Selling and Telling [Part 1]:
To inform, to instruct, to persuade and to entertain: these are the four purposes of copywriting. Any other writing can be one or a combination of those, but in copywriting it’s all four. Why? Because copywriters have the most disinterested audience of all. Once you’re clear about that and the six genres of writing, you’re ready to craft sentences that suspend disinterest all the way to the final full stop.
The first of this two-part post discussed and demonstrated the first three genres: expository, descriptive and persuasive copywriting. In Part 2, we will see where, when and how we can apply the second three genres: poetic, narrative and technical copywriting.
NARRATIVE COPYWRITING … 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. 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 as long as your content is interesting, meaningful, useful and rewarding to read, you’re good to go.
The narrative style of writing is commonly known as storytelling; you’ll know it in the form of novels, biographies, historical accounts, essays, screenplays, poems, editorial, digital 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.
Just as the copywriter 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 — the 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 see. It’s called “writing pictures”. Of course, there are the other four senses but let’s get back to the two categories. There is the structure (the bones of a story) and there are the elements (the body, mind and spirit that animate a story into a living, breathing experience for the reader).
Structure of a story is made up of:
- Plot (a sequence of events that make up story)
The copywriter’s food for thought side-tracks into thoughts of food a la Sri Lankan cuisine.
- Introduction (the set up of story, character and theme)
The copywriter and you discuss the meaning of narrative writing.
- 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.
- 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.
- Falling Action (transitional event pointing to an ending of the story)
You enjoyed this discussion and consider sharing it with friends and colleagues.
- Resolution (a conclusion that embodies the climactic effect)
You exit the story a little wiser, and the copywriter tucks into Sri Lankan fish cutlets for lunch.
Elements of a story include:
- Conflict (tension between problem/solution, cause/effect, question/answer, for/against)
You ask questions, the copywriter gives answers.
- 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 (storyteller) and the story style (narrative)
- 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 – knowledge for you and Sri Lankan fish cutlets for him)
- 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 heaps for the know-how’.
TECHNICAL COPYWRITING … THIS WAY PLEASE.
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 6’s.
- 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.