Thirty-Five Inches: How a Burnt-Out Bulb Can Help You Write More Engaging Fiction and Copy

How was your weekend? Didn’t get papers or comics this weekend, but I got trained by accident in something that I forget from time to time, that I think may be able to help you out with your fiction and copywriting.

The fluorescent light the landlord put over the stove burned out its bulb. That meant going to Wal-Mart or somewhere to get a new one. Which meant measuring it first.

Thirty-five inches. End to end.

Went to Wal-Mart, and the only thing they had that was close was 36 inches–one too long. Ended up going to a hardware store closer to home, and told a guy there what happened. He said that 36 inches is the standard size, and that included the pins on the end of an otherwise 35-inch bulb.


Writing can be like that, no matter if you’re writing fiction or copy (writing to persuade/inspire action).

There are some times you’ll need to have sweeping, whole brain revisions or edits of something, so much so that it seems like you’re pulling your hair out of every place you’ve got it.

Other times, a little bit is all you need. It could just be changing one word of your subject line, or coming up with a different way for a character to make one decision (provided it makes sense, of course).

Just like that one inch of pins on either side of a fancy light bulb.

Until next time,


Posted in Fiction and Copy Decodes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Triple F: Expect the Storm

How’s your week been? I hope it’s been really awesome for you–we’ve got a little bit left, though.

Let’s get to it.

Today’s Friday, which means Triple F, and a fiction prompt. If you’ve been here before, great. If not, get strapped in.

Here in the Midwest, it’s cold today–or at least 50ish feels cold, because it was close to 90 yesterday. And Wednesday’s dust storm really kicked up the weirdness, for sure.

So this week’s prompt for Fabulous Fiction Friday is:

There’s a storm outside, but it’s something your character is expecting–and it ain’t rain.

I just had to put “it ain’t rain” to block out possibility of a weather report, hail, or what-have-ya. We’ve got no details on character, backstory, gender, or pretty much anything else, so you’ll have to hatch those on your own (or yerself).

What if Katie is expecting a shipment, but it’s being covered by an artificial saline storm? Where is she so that this is happening, and why the secrecy? Maybe she’s expecting alien tech, or she needs to fix an ailing space station–what went wrong?

Or Matt is thinking about how it sucks to be trapped in a hazmat suit all day, because of disease and depopulation, when the wave of radiation comes to kill off the evil alien race that’s enslaved humans. Only this time, the radiation only maims them…

That’s enough to get the mental snowball a-rollin’. Each decision you or a character makes leads to a different story (and lots of different stories from these prompts).

May 2017 is about 2/3 slipped into the folded cloak of history.

Make it an awesome weekend, with good memories, all right?

Until next time (and week),


Posted in Fab Friday Prompts | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Bit of a Dust Storm and Motivation?

How’s your week been so far? Yesterday was a little weird, because it was hot–I mean like almost 90 degrees out. I had to have the windows open, too.┬áThe wind whipped around so much that my south window’s shade started ripping (my windows open from both the top and the bottom).

But that wasn’t the weirdest part, though. That came when the dust from the field started blowing into the house–putting a teeny layer of it on my table and a few other things (the farmers had been busy in the fields for a couple days before, and maybe a bit on that day–don’t know how/if that factored in).

I decided to take the pickle I found myself in and choose to have a bit of dust on everything, instead of roasting inside a hot house.

Not as bad as several years back where you could almost see the dust on the wood floor, but still…

And then, this morning? The wind is still going a little bit out there, but there’s no dust blowing all over the place.

Anyway, what’s my point-ola?

Sometimes things need to have a rest–no squeezing, grunting, or what-have-ya through your writing. Yes, there are times you need to push, even if you don’t feel like it.

How do you tell which is which?

To me, the deciding factor is whether you’re struggling with creativity and research, or lack of motivation/not feeling it. Being unmotivated means I should just start a little bit–even if that’s switching gears to something else. That works for writing emails for clients, stories, subject lines, and more.

Or you can take some time to browse the internet for something research-related, funny, or what-have-ya. Just don’t stray into goofing off, like I mostly do (which is why I sometimes choose to deal with writer’s block/motivational issues in different ways).

Tomorrow is Triple F, so be sure to stop by.

Until next time,


Posted in Creativity, Inspiration, Motivation, Fiction and Copy Decodes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Copywriting Codex: How Tom Cruise’s Love Life Can Make You a Better Writer

How’s your week been so far? It’s Hump Daaaaaaaaaaaaaay! (Which I still don’t know the history behind, even after searching the Entire-net).

I hope yours is going great though, I know that for sure.

Let’s get to it for today.

This is going to be a Copywriting Codex (which I last did on December 20th, 2016 and forgot to label). These posts are for copywriters specifically (but I think fiction writers could learn a lot too).

While I was out shopping (one of the greatest sources of contact with humanity–I mean, writing inspiration–I have), I took a look at a magazine at the checkout counter (which you should do for headlines and subject lines, but that’s the subject of another post).

Well, turns out that Tom Cruise had maybe, p’raps, could have fallen in love with his blonde-lady costar Vanessa Kirby (from Mission Impossible 6).

Part of the article read “Has Tom found wife number four?” Apparently that’s after Nicole Kidman, Katie Holmes, and Mimi Rogers–saith Google (and I didn’t know about Mimi).

Point is, I don’t know Tom at all. And I don’t know how gung-ho he is for the marriage thing as far as making them work. I don’t really know any of the stories behind the marriage break-ups either.

But Tom has a lot in common with good prospects for almost any business. That’s because he’s motivated to keep trying something even though things didn’t work out the first time.

As long as prospects don’t buy things for the sake of buying them, prospects who have a pressing problem they’re trying to solve, if they’re still motivated to keep trying, can be a good fit for something you’re promoting. Their pain from their problem can still be fresh or lingering, and their desire to solve that problem stronger than ever. If you have an ethical solution, even better (which you should always have–you don’t want to be the snake-oil guy or girl in town everyone runs from, do you?).

Has Tom found the woman he’ll spend the rest of his life with? I don’t know. If she’s not it, though, I have every confidence he’ll keep up the search.

Until next time,


Posted in Copywriting Codex | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Give ‘Em a Ride Down the John…

How’s it going? First, a little note…I totally forgot to wish everyone a happy Mother’s Day yesterday (a little late even then, I know). So, Happy Mother’s Day! I really hope you got to spend some time on Sunday with a mom who matters to you, no matter if that’s yours or someone else’s.

Anyway, let’s get to it.

For those of you who don’t know, when I think something is funny, usually I think it’s REALLY funny, and my laugh volume adjusts accordingly. All that was on full display yesterday. Here’s how things went:

I ran into a seamstress. It turns out she’s been sewing since she was a kid–and she’s 87 now. She plants flowers and mows her own lawn at home–I respect that, because in modern society a lot of the time even people in their 50s and 60s are slowing down to a point where they’re not able to do a whole lot (and that’s not knocking them–I sit on my behind for hours a day writing and researching–just mentioning what I see when I’m out and about).

She started talking about birds and crops and what-have-ya, and somehow we got on the topic of stink bugs, which she found in her big bathroom, one time. When I asked what she did with them, she said she picked one up “with a piece of toilet tissue.” In general though, what she said was:

“I give ’em a ride down the john.”

…Cue me laughing–and snorting. I was probably red-faced, and I’m probably the same as I’m telling you this, for sure.

Well, what’s my point? This doesn’t have to with writing, so much as mindset and motivation (which is linked to writing and creativity, at least for me it is). Should we be able to write under any condition? Yes we should–absent being pasted to the couch from massive illness, or major disease of some type.

We all have negative thoughts and emotions from time to time–doubt, fear, and what-have-ya. Those are great for adding depth to characters, and sticking your client (or you, if you’re promoting something) to your prospects–that’s humanity on display. It’s great if you have people curious about someone or a product because they think that someone is just like them, or think the product can help them overcome what they’re struggling with.

Sometimes, though, thinking “I can’t do this” or “What do I do now” or “What if ABC 123 DEF happens…” is too much. If it’s a lack of training or practice, that’s fine–that’s something you can fix.

But if a negative thought, that you know is just self-doubt or fear is bugging you, and you know it’s nothing more than that, give it a ride down the john. Do that for all the thoughts, as often as they come up, and remind yourself that those thoughts–which is all they are, if they’re not based on facts or the truth–don’t tell the story of who you really are, and what you can accomplish with your writing (or your life).

I have to tell myself this too about negative thoughts–give ’em a ride down the john.

Until next time,


Posted in Creativity, Inspiration, Motivation, Fiction and Copy Decodes | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Different Sides of Mother’s Day, as Told by My Facebook Feed and More…

How was your weekend? Mine was really good–we had a short shopping trip, so no papers or comics. But it was Mother’s Day, which was cool.

Writing fiction (and copywriting) are both about persuasion, because both types of writing are about meeting people in a familiar place or circumstances, and using those things to take them to where they’ve never been before.

And Mother’s Day brought that home for me for a couple reasons.

A guy on Facebook posted a meme for Mother’s Day that said “Accidentally said hi to my mom in person on Mother’s Day instead of making a post on social media.”

Hmm. Okay, good. We all have different experiences, that’s for sure. Most of the year, my cousin lives 1,000 miles away from her mom, so she doesn’t have a bucketful of alternatives to the social media thing, I don’t think.

And then there’s the other side of things–people who want to spend time with their mom but can’t…

Like the Facebook friend of mine whose mom died when she was 4.

Or the blogger I follow on WordPress who lost her mom when she was 11.

Not only that though. I have two other friends on Facebook–one lost her mom last month, and the other lost hers just last week.

That’s unimaginable pain, I’ll tell you right now.

How you’d start a conversation about moms may be the same, but you’d go to different places with the meme poster I mentioned than with the friend who lost her mom last month, wouldn’t you?

It’s the same for people who are in your life more often than others–you talk to them about different things than you would friends you talk to every other month, or what-have-ya.

Those kinds of details–knowing what people like, who they are, what they spend their time doing, what hurts their feelings–are the kind of details you can bring out of your characters or your prospects to make what you’re saying more believable and you more trustworthy, as long as you’re sincere.

That goes for your characters who are 21,000,000 light years away from Earth on a planet you made up based on a nebula you read about in a science book. And your prospects who are struggling with the kind of problem they don’t want to tell anyone about for some reason.

That’s a little of what Mother’s Day brought home for me this year. What about you? Drop me a line in the comments. What about me and my mom? Well, I go shopping with my mom every week, and that’s a special thing.

Until next time,


Posted in Fiction and Copy Decodes | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Triple F: Birds and Wire…

How’s your week been? It’s almost over by now, but we still have a little bit left.

But not before we hit Friday and Triple F over here–a writing prompt for you, laced with wacky examples I come up with.

I’ll try to make this a short one…I have to also try to get back on the Youtube train–I haven’t been doing video so much. I’ll need to build that out some more.

We’ve talked a lot about idea generation this week, strangely enough, and so I’ve been trying to keep my own eyes open for possibilities here and there…everything from trucks roaring by and birds singing in the trees, to old ladies walking in the rain with pink cloth bags over their heads as a shield (happened to me last Wednesday, seeing the dark pink bag).

Your prompt for this week’s Fabulous Fiction Friday is:

Birds and humans have switched places–birds nest in houses, and people live in trees.

Considering birds still nest in houses when people live there, or in letters on the front of stores, you’ll have to come up with an interesting reason why all this is happening. You have almost complete free reign here, because there’s not a heck of a lot of detail that I put in.

Maybe Colin just made it to the top of a tree before a bird got him–they’ve become destructively mutated somehow, and humans have built wire mesh around all the trees in the world because of the threat. Why did this happen, and what would happen if the birds found a way to slip through the mesh, or turn off the stun-level electricity coursing through it?

Or Mandy’s been saddled with the responsibility to look into the bird thing, and even though she’s careful, one of them pecks her? Nothing happens, until she feels a strong urge to lick every knife in the silverware drawer…

That’s enough to get the mental snowball rolling, I figure.

May has about half had it, by now, but not quite.

Make it a great weekend, with good memories, all right?

Until next time (and week),


Posted in Fab Friday Prompts | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Start Your Sniveling: Why Complaints Are the Lifeblood of Fiction and Copy…

How’s your week been so far? I’ve been working through a copywriting/marketing challenge via Facebook with a group of writers, and it’s been great so far. I’ll start a bit of outreach today.

Anyway, let’s get to it.

One of the most powerful ways to get ideas (linking to yesterday’s post) is actually listening to people whine about their problems.

Or complain, moan, cry, mumble, or what-have-ya.

Maybe I covered this in a previous post–if I have, I don’t much care.

If you’re a fiction writer, one way or other, problems are going to serve as the foundation of everything you’ll be doing–setting is where the problem is solved, and character is who’s solving that problem (after they realize they have it–which they may not, to begin with…but they will realize why some part of their life feels like crap).

If you’re a copywriter, and you’re persuading with emails, sales letters, and more, and you know what your prospects’ problems are and how to solve them, or what to put in front of them so they can solve that problem, man, it’s like people can’t enough of what you have to tell them. (Provided people will pay money to have the problem solved–whether that’s something they put into action, or ideally, pay someone else to do for them).

Conflict is what makes life interesting for your readers–they have to find out what’s going to happen. As long as they care about the character you created, they’ll be more motivated to read til the end. Conflict is also what frustrates people in the real world, which is why they pay to have them cleared up, if at all possible.

That’s why I made it so a lot of the prompts in my book focus on problems generated by the environment or circumstances (or by the character themselves).

You can find out more over here:

Tomorrow is Triple F. Be sure to stop by.

Until next time,


Posted in Fiction and Copy Decodes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Everybody’s Been Rained On: How to Turn a Little Idea into Your Next Piece of Content

How’s it going? A couple posts back, I talked about how ideas for stories, emails, or what-have-ya didn’t have to be big at all.

And I’d like to do that today…turn a small idea into something bigger.

Today when I was out shopping, it rained a lot.

There’s your idea, and it’s true, at least for me, today. The fact that rain gets me down is true, too, sometimes.

But me being sad about rain is not a good blog post or email–there’s no punch to it. Ho-hum.

We have to relate it to something else, and ask and answer relevant questions for the reader about why they should read, and how it would help them out in the long haul.

So I’d say something like this:

I did some shopping today, and it rained a lot. Rain usually gets me down, but then I remembered that rain makes things grow. Sometimes people go through hard times, which ends up helping them grow, most of the time.

Only I’d draw it out a little further, with more examples, because that seems a little short for a post–not enough pop in there.

Nearly everybody on earth has been rained on at one point or another. Even people in the Midwest, where I live.

One of the only things that can’t be duplicated in my account of being rained on today is the “me” part of it. Only I can tell you about what I felt about it, and I’ll have unique connections I’ll be making to rain, fiction, and more as we went along in the post (or email, if I were writing this for a client).

Which is where all the shine would come from–I could make it funny or horrible or anything else (because I wore my Skechers that have the mesh in the top part of the toe, I’m glad I didn’t step in puddles). Or I’d say the rain came in waves, and I didn’t get as soaked as I thought I was going to.

I might also throw in some conflict if this were fiction–the rain affected the internet, and I’d only just gotten a piece off to a client before weird stuff started happening (also true for me today).

But the ultimate part of the email or story is that you have to have a friendship/acquaintanceship/relationship with me so that you care that it’s ME telling you this story of rain and not someone else.

That’s how you’d stand out…being you. It’s cliche, everyone knows that, right?

But do people actually DO what they know?

People have told me that over and over again–to be me, and that’s the key to standing out. Sometimes I need to repeat it for my own benefit, that’s for sure.

I also have to make sure you’ll benefit from reading, so you’ll come back over and over to see what I’ve got to say–even if that’s just to be entertained, and you don’t actually buy anything I have to promote, as I sometimes do.

So if you get stuck on any part of a fiction or copy assignment/gig/fun stuff, just start with a little idea, and inject some YOU into it, and see where you end up. And remember to smile and laugh about it, too–humor helps, even when you think you’re flopping.

Until next time,


Posted in Creativity, Inspiration, Motivation, Fiction and Copy Decodes | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

She Flipped Him Off Through the Sun Roof…

How’s it going? I was running errands yesterday with my mom, and we were heading here and there. We were stopped at a light, and she was talking about something that I wasn’t quite getting. All of a sudden she said:

“She flipped him off. Did you see that?”

When I said I hadn’t, she said:

“She flipped him off through the sun roof.”

Apparently some woman had gotten annoyed with a guy turning in front of her or what-have-ya.

Mom wondered if something was going to happen because the guy who got The Finger didn’t look too tickled about it.

Other than being an example of me being clueless and staring at traffic light colors when I shouldn’t be, this whole thing started with an example of a great opening, and it’s something all attention-grabbing copy and fiction must have.

Without it, nothing is noticed, which means it won’t be read.

This is more along the lines of the curiosity stuff I mentioned yesterday, but to me it’s something more than that. Yes, someone has to be curious about something to take a look…but they also think, deep inside, somewhere along the line, that they have to get value from it, or they’ll eventually be gone. That value can take many forms, for sure, even in sales-type stuff.

I could say:

Are These 3 Biggest Email Mistakes Killing Your Sales?

There’s curiosity, but then I need to make my points, don’t I? I have to go into three points that I think could be killing your email sales. And then I’d provide solutions/suggestions to help undo the mistake if you’re making it.

Or we could have this:

Lina peeked around the corner. No one. She wiped her sweaty palms on her pants again, but couldn’t seem to calm down.

^^^Here’s the entertainment type of value. We’ve got curiosity about Lina, because we’re wondering what’s going on, who or what she’s running from, and maybe a little more about her. Us making those connections, or thinking about/trying to make them, is what keeps readers reading and is the value in this case (that’s only my opinion, and it’s not the only thing of value here).

So if you get stuck on a subject line, bit of dialogue, or a piece of a character sketch, try to imagine how you can use details to take readers from curiosity to value.

And then bring those details out and see what happens.

Until next time,


Posted in Fiction and Copy Decodes, Subject Lines | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment