This Hit Home for Me When I Was Looking at the Same Book Twice…

How was your weekend? I was able to get comics and the Sunday crossword, so that was totally awesome. Because of special circumstances, I ended up shopping in Target yesterday, too.

And that’s when it struck me (figuratively, of course). I saw two copies of Before I Fall, one with the original cover with the pink flowers, and one with the movie cover.

It almost seemed like they were two different books, even though they’re not.

But the cover is what attracted my attention at first.

Which, by the way, leads me to my point. If you write fiction, your cover, title, and blurb (of any combination of those your story has) is what attracts readers’ attention.

If you’re writing an email or a sales letter with no images, the thing that’s going to capture readers’ attention is the headline (or the subject line–with the part after that being like the blurb in a way, but that’s the subject for another post).

Both the cover and headline/subject line are the first things that readers (or would-be readers or buyers) will see. That’s what pulled me over to take a look at the book, right?

Good covers and good headlines and subject lines have some things in common:

They inspire curiosity. More of a “just what IS this?” kinda thing. With a picture, that can be done with color and shading/imaging, but if you’re working only with words, that can be somewhat harder, but not impossible. Normally I’d beat the “show don’t tell” drum here, but a few taps will be enough, I’m figuring.

They resonate with or speak to the reader. With a fiction book, you’re curious about the character, if you’ve read the title and looked at the cover for more than a few seconds, and you may have flipped it over to read the blurb on the back, or taken a looky inside.

With an email or sales letter, you want to have the reader imagine that you’re part of their world, and that you want them to be part of yours, too. That’s why subject lines about mistakes and what not to do can be powerful. And if it turns out that your reader was actually making the mistake you talk about, then you’ve bonded with them even more–because you’ve shown you care about helping them.

They ask for the sale. This is *technically* not true with just a subject line, so this is kind of a halfway point. Because book covers (at least physical ones) wrap around the whole thing to the back, they have the price on the bottom, so you know something’s for sale (you’re in a store and unless they say so, they’re not giving stuff away for free). With a sales letter or VSL, it can be a little more obvious something’s for sale (sometimes).

With email, though, it’s entirely different goings-on, and people may not know something is for sale (or that you’ll be linking to something that’s for sale). Which means you have to tell them…and how much detail you use will depend on whether they know you or not, and whether they have the problem or the interest that’s served by your product or service. (Personally I find it easier to frame it as problem-solving and help rather than sales, because most people think sales is a dirty word…even though millions of things and services are bought every day of the year. People are weird).

But if you’re an author, speaker, or copywriter, you’re a salesperson. You don’t have to be pushy, though…if someone’s got objections or something and you can address ’em, go ahead. And if they don’t have the problem you’re looking to solve, you likely won’t be able to sell them anything at all (unless your product or service solves more than one problem, or two or more problems that overlap). Or if someone hates stories with spaceships, and you’ve got three stories full of ’em, they may not be interested (unless you can bring to light some other details in the story that may make it so they’re willing to overlook the part they don’t like).

Sure, subject lines/headlines and covers have a lot in common–more than I could fit in a single post. But I hope that scratching the surface here opens your mind to what can and needs to be done if you’re in the business of selling what you write or using words to sell something else.

Until next time,

Ty

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Triple F: Familiar Face, Unfamiliar World…

Hope your week’s been great so far (we still have a couple peelings of it left to enjoy). I went to a town or two away to see my aunt, that was nice. A lot’s been going on there that will serve as fodder for future posts, I hope (including the awesome pic of the fridge she has at work).

Anyway, let’s get to it.

Today’s Friday, and that means it’s Fabulous Fiction Friday and you get another prompt to chew on (figuratively–if you print this out, what you do with it is your business).

This week I visited family, and there was Star Wars Day this week, too. So I thought I could mix that around (minus the copyrighted stuff, unless you want to do fan fiction). So your Triple F prompt for this week is:

People you know have to live in a totally different universe than our own for one day. Where is it, and what happens?

I thought something like Narnia or Star Wars when I wrote that, but if you want to make it so your brother or sister has to live in some odd world of your own creation, go ahead.

My brother would be an interesting subject for that kind of thing, because I’m pretty sure he’d enjoy wherever I decided to plop him. Okay, how about:

Your mom has to live in a world that you made up when you were five? What exactly would happen? Is she riding unicorns, or living in blanket forts instead of a house? If your mom knows you really well, would this world be like a second home to her? And are you there, too?

Or maybe a good friend of yours has to live in a world that you created when you were kinda upset with them, years ago. What would happen to them? Would they be depressed, or would they realize that you needed to reconcile? That would depend on how they were sent there and if they knew you created the world, of course. Or maybe they’re too busy dodging traffic jams and being distracted by irritating texts on their phone pretending to be from you…

Didn’t mean to be a downer on that last one–ideally, you’d want to go for the happy ending (even though it’s not that way in real life, at least not all the time).

All right, that’s enough to get the mental snowball rolling (even though this was a take on regular people/regular things, which is something I attempt to stay away from as a science fiction and fantasy fiction writer).

May is about one week underway (and I have to get used to putting “5” or “May” on everything when I slap a date on it).

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

Until next time,

Ty

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It Took a While, but a Friend and My Brother Conspired to Turn Me Into…

The week’s kinda flown by, hasn’t it? Anyway, let’s get to it. And don’t pay too much attention to the lingo…I will connect this all to fiction and copywriting, too.

Despite the fact that I’m very interested in Star Wars and its universe, it took me two years or a bit longer before I figured out today is Star Wars Day (it’s unofficial).

One of my favorite Android games is Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. So much so, that I’ve blogged about it, or aspects of it, for MMOGearFinder (under the username wtemradio).

But it didn’t start out that way.

When I was about 10, I was over at a dude’s house who lived in the same town I did (yep, during two short stints in my life, I actually lived in a town–with neighbors and everything).

This guy was kinda a nerdy-type kid, like I was, and loved to play video games. He introduced me to the original Final Fantasy (or maybe it was number 2).

And I thought it was the dumbest game in the world.

Wandering around, waiting to get attacked, and then when you were being attacked, swords appearing out of nowhere that symbolized what you were supposed to be doing…but all the characters did was march in place. Ugh.

For the unaware, turned-based games are similar to Revolutionary War reenactments–lines of guys stand across from each other and attack…that type of thing. In the games, you don’t control things like dodging or blocking.

I was used to games like Super Mario and Legend of Zelda where things actually came your way to bump/push/kill the character, so maybe that was part of my initial disdain for the whole Final Fantasy thing.

Funny thing is, I have no idea what changed, or when things changed over for me (although there are still some turned-based RPG games I won’t play, if they’re too similar to the Final Fantasy mold).

As for Star Wars, for years and years I wasn’t aware of it a whole lot, and didn’t care. Then my brother came along, got interested in it, and somehow I got sucked into it, too. I don’t really remember when that was. I do like a good story (although everyone knows that certain aspects of certain movies in the series could have been done way better).

So, I read a few good novels, watched a couple movies (Rogue One being the latest), and I’m part of the Star Wars universe myself, to an extent.

And that’s how this ties in, actually. If you’re writing fiction or copy (or both), you’re building a world that your readers or prospects need to be introduced to. For fiction, that’s everything from a reader’s background and problems, to their environment. For prospects, that’s more like a world that includes your product and/or service and doesn’t include the problems that your prospect had before they encountered you and your solution.

In both cases, they’ll use their own experience to interpret what you’re telling them…unless you show them they need to set that aside for a bit (like a fictional universe that includes colonizing the planet Mercury). And if you’re making things up, you have to go at a pace so that readers can follow (for me that means keeping enough familiar stuff that your readers can bond with your characters as both character and reader discover what the heck’s going on).

On a more copywriting-ish front, people have to be shown the same idea or product multiple times before they take action (kinda like me watching different Star Wars movies and playing several Star Wars themed games over the years). As long as they’ve expressed interest, of course (brainwashing is frowned upon and criminalized in most jurisdictions I’m aware of).

Now you’ve got it…my partial transformation to Star Wars junkie. Not a super-fan as much as some, and I take things one at a time, but I do enjoy the franchise, to be sure (Disney’s treatment of Star Wars’ EU would like be the subject of another post–or a whole other blog).

Tomorrow is Triple F and another prompt. Be sure to stop by.

Until next time,

Ty

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It Doesn’t Have to Be Big…

How’s your week going so far?

Let’s get to it.

I don’t know when this came to me–maybe it was when I thought about *trying* to go back to posting here 5 days a week.

Or when I was browsing the bookshelves at a grocery store, or thinking about subjects for Youtube videos. Or maybe it was because I was procrastinating a bit on some Facebook ads I’m setting up :-).

Doesn’t matter, really. All of this led me to the realization that…

Posts/emails/what-have-ya don’t have to be big.

You don’t need a list of ten things per post, or a bunch of different ideas playing around. You just need one, even if it’s small. Like talking about the senses, or brick walls, or unwashed dishes.

As long as you can connect that to what you’re trying to promote for yourself or a client, or whatever the rest of your message is, what you start with doesn’t matter.

That is, as long as your audience isn’t confused or lost by what you’re trying to say.

I want to get a companion video up to this post on Youtube, and I hope to be able to sync those up flawlessly (or as nearly as I can make it), so that you can see both.

So if you get stuck for an email subject line, or bit of dialogue, or what-have-ya, hop on to your research or sketches, and start small.

Until next time,

Ty

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The Power of Smell, Plus a Special Announcement…

How’s it going? Yesterday, we talked about how powerful sound was in fiction and copy. Today, I’d like to talk about smells. But before we get to that, I’d like to mention that Fiction and Copy Decoded is on Youtube now. You can check it out over this way.

Anyway, let’s get to it–smelling our way through fiction and copy.

In all fairness, I didn’t think this one up on my own–the judge for the middle-grade fiction contest I entered back near the beginning of April mentioned it.

The interesting thing about smells, for me, is that they can be good or bad, depending on the smell (or my own relationship, so to speak, with that smell).

Take chocolate chip cookies. Excellent smell. It’s awesome–one of the best smells there is (and BOO! on its lookalike oatmeal raisin–it’s okay as a cookie, but when you were thinking one and you got the other, it may not be so nice).

Now imagine smelling something like rancid grease. Ugh. It’s one of the worst smells there is, right?

But you’ll notice that in both cases, you knew what I was talking about, because you’ve already smelled those smells. Your brain made the connection for you about 0.0000001 seconds (just an estimate) after you read what I’d written above.

So you can have your readers move toward something good, or away from something bad. Same with your characters and prospects.

But they have to know the smell itself, before they can make the connections you want them to make. Lilacs are one of my favorite flowers. The smell is great. I know that because for over ten years, lilac bushes have been near where I live. A couple months a year, I can go smell them whenever I want. If you don’t know, no amount of me telling you about it will get you any closer to sharing in my experience. That’s another reason why smell is so powerful and so difficult–unless you get someone with really great descriptive powers (and maybe not even then), even something as powerful as the Internet won’t be able to describe what something smells like.

With a lot of smells, you have to smell them yourself–to make your own connections, good or bad. So it’s personalized. People can have a totally opposite relationship with the same smell. Take skunk smell for instance. I kinda like it–not in a strange way, let’s not be weird. But it’s one of the most recognizable smells on earth, and that’s why I think it’s pretty cool. And since I’m usually smelling it because someone ran over the smell’s owner, that means the more recently the skunk kicked the bucket, the stronger the smell is (not in every case, but usually).

I also like the smell of paper from print books (I spent a lot of time with those–especially in grade school, when it took me forever to do dictionary work because I kept getting sidetracked by words around the actual one I was supposed to be looking up).

And to make things totally me on this, I sometimes use the word “smells” instead of “sounds” or “seems.” “Smells like you’re having a problem with that” (that sort of thing).

Anyway, because smells are connected to memory, you can use that in your fiction and copy–someone remembering something their Mom baked for them as a kid, or your prospects’ memories of having fun in the sun, or summer barbecues, or what-have-ya. That’s where the power is. Use it to paint a picture.

And in the process of “smell showing,” you’ll show something deeper about your characters, your prospects’ desires or wants (or the future you want them to have), and yourself.

Until next time,

Ty

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My Sound-Filled Weekend and How You Can Write Better Fiction and Copy

How was your weekend? I’ll get to mine in a bit, but I have to say that it’s May 1st today. I really like blogging on the first and last days of the month–firsts get me energized and lasts make me reflective, I suppose.

Anyway, let’s get to it.

My weekend was pretty awesome. I went to a symphony concert. The symphony is actually a youth symphony, but it’s been running for 30 years, so they had a big concert (all of Peer Gynt, Water Music, and a lot more). I really, really enjoyed it–especially the jazz at the end, because I enjoy jazz (listening to it, playing it, and what-have-ya).

Before that, though, I went to a sports store and saw that the place had been picked over–they’re going out of business. And I couldn’t resist taking a picture (which I’ll be intending to turn into a pic prompt on Instagram if I can figure out how to do it…shouldn’t be too hard).

After the concert, the group I go with went out for Chinese food (and I love Chinese food).

You may know that I post about these concerts every so often. They really make me think–especially from a fiction and personal standpoint. In fiction, sound is hard to describe if someone doesn’t already know what the sound means. If I tell you I heard an oboe, and you’ve never heard one, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?

Sound is still a powerful thing though. It’s how a lot of the world communicates. We watch videos online every day, and people talk to one another probably trillions of hours every day. Sound can also mean danger, like screeching tires, or joy, like a door slamming if someone’s expecting a visitor they like. That’s the type of impact sound has.

As writers, we have to work on narrowing things down, though, because different sounds can carry different meanings. If someone hears their brother cooking in the kitchen, what led them to that conclusion? Okay, that’s show, don’t tell. That’s awesome.

Now…is the brother a good cook? If he is, that’s pretty cool. If he ain’t, what happens next? Is he trying to get good? Or does what he comes up with still make dogs whimper when they sniff it?

Even sounds are filtered through peoples’ experiences in life. That’s why I mentioned about concerts impacting me personally. See, I’m a musician and I’d worked with this symphony for a lot of years. Music is something I enjoy a lot. For me, though, it’s something more than that. These concerts always mark the end of an era–this was the spring concert, so the symphony’s going to take the rest of spring and a lot of summer off. Which gets me thinking about possibility in my life, where I am, and where I’m going or would like to go next.

And all that comes, for me, from 90 minutes of awesome sound.

So if you ever get stuck for an angle for an email, dialogue, or a bit of description, ask yourself what your characters or prospects think about different sounds in their life, and go from there. You may be surprised by what you come up with.

Until next time,

Ty

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Triple F: I Made a Recording, and Then…

How’s it going? Today’s Friday, so that means Fabulous Fiction Friday, and a prompt for you.

I’ve been blogging about starting to shoot video/do Facebook livestreams (and I’ve actually done two of them). I’m starting to get more comfortable with it, but I don’t know if I’m quite there (and I’ll be looking into doing things like Youtube and Vimeo later on, for sure).

So, to mash all that up, as I usually do, here’s this week’s Triple F post, just for you:

Your character has a video camera, and catches a crime by accident. What happens now?

That’s about as close as I’ve come to regular people doing regular things in a while. You’ll have to figure out things like gender, backstory, and what-have-ya. There’s even world-building things you can do here, depending on the story itself. Something like:

Lori catches someone breaking into the store across the street. Okay, is she afraid? Maybe. But what is she afraid of? Is she afraid that someone will find out what she’s done and come after her? Or is it that recording anything, anywhere is illegal in the society Lori’s in right now, and she’s afraid of being punished for it? Or both?

Or maybe catches a mugging on camera, and goes out to confront the people involved. But after he gets knocked over the head and wakes up, he’s nowhere near where he started. Did he get knocked back in time, or is it just a hallucination brought on by head trauma?

All right, that’s enough to get the mental snowball rolling down the hill.

April’s almost out of here, actually. May 1st, 2017 is next Monday.

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

Until next time (and week, and month),

Ty

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I Shot Myself (Figuratively)…

How’s it going? I finally got my head out of my you-know-where and started doing videos about some things that I cover here at Fiction and Copy Decoded (one of which you can feel free to watch over here).

Yes, I’m trend-hopping (something I almost never do). I watched a video on this geared toward salespeople about prospecting for clients, and I thought it would help.

Wanna know a secret? Shooting videos and live-streams are difficult for me because I’m really, really introverted. But it’s even more difficult for me for a different reason, and that is…

I hate hearing myself talk on recordings. It’s just really weird to me, because my voice sounds different, and I pick up on all kinds of idiosyncrasies on video especially that I wish I could edit out.

But nothing is perfect–not even in fiction and copy, where writers get to make (and break) a lot of the rules. The principles that go into great fiction and copy still have their place in video, too. 🙂

Anyhow, I’ll probably eventually have to set up a Youtube channel and Vimeo account to increase my reach, but for right now, I think things will be all right.

And at least three days a week, barring time off, I’ll still write to you about things I’ve discovered, things I’m working on, and what-have-ya.

How about you? Do you write and shoot video online? Is it difficult or easy? Drop me a line in the comments and let me know.

Tomorrow is Triple F. Be sure to swing by.

Until next time,

Ty

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This Common Piece of Advice Is Nearly Worthless, Unless…

How’s it going? I actually took a little more time off the past week and a half or so, which is why you haven’t heard from me. But I’m back now.

Let’s get to it.

I’ve been looking into a lot of different things about marketing lately, especially with books/stories, and pro services (because I’m looking into how to do things better with my own fiction and writing biz).

Something that struck me as odd is the advice to “do whatever works for you.” I know I give that advice…

And it could be all wrong.

Why?

It’s based on assumptions. I’m assuming that whoever I’m talking to knows themselves well enough (or can ask the right questions) to figure out what might work for them. Which leads me to assumption #2: whoever I’m talking to has had enough experience with things that haven’t worked for them to determine what can or might work for them based on their personality, strengths, likes, passions, what-have-ya.

And sometimes these assumptions ain’t true. These two things work together, to be sure. For instance, there are experts on cold-calling out there. I’m not one of them. I’m on the verge of sweating when I’m about to talk to a prospect for a strategy call, and they want to help me help them, usually.

Prospecting isn’t some adversarial, rawr-rawr situation that involves a lot of snarling and slavering from both parties as they circle each other, either. They’re interested in solving a problem, most of the time, and other people want to be there to get them that solution.

I just prefer to have interested parties (or semi-interested parties) contact me, or to contact them through non-face-to-face or voice-to-ear means to start with.

So cold calling people isn’t something I would choose to do, because I’m more introverted. But there’s always room for growth (that’s why I want to start doing more videos and livestreams for different things–to get used to speaking out more and being in front of the camera, sometimes).

Drop me a line in the comments and let me know what you’re thinking on this’n.

Until next time,

Ty

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Triple F: Someone Stepped in Something…

How’s your week been? Mine was interesting. The middle-grade fiction contest I signed up for had their webinar yesterday (it’s pretty cool–they critique the top five winning stories).

I didn’t make it as a winner…this time. I was sitting on a combination of excitement and dread the whole time, though. What if they read my story out loud? What if I didn’t make it? What if I did make it? And on and on.

I do have the satisfaction of saying I gave it a good shot, though. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t have to push negative feelings out of my head every now and again (do you ever think something like that…like maybe you’d be better off doing something else in place of writing?)

Anyway, let’s get to it.

Today is Triple F, or for the soon-to-be-invited-into-my-world, aka Fabulous Fiction Friday, or any of a dozen other names I can (and maybe will) eventually come to call it.

It’s a writing prompt that happens every Friday, or almost every Friday, just for you (that’s also why I put them in their own category…if you want more, they’re off to your right, under “Fab Friday Prompts”).

Things have been a weird combination of sunny, muddy, and windy here this week. So I figured I’d spin that into this week’s prompt:

Your character steps in something they’ve never stepped in before.

All right, one teeny plot point–actually, more of an incident (much less than an actual story).

You’ll have to figure what’s been stepped in, who stepped in it, and why. That means backstory (which may also include whether the character has had any other incidents with what’s been stepped in).

How about Chad steps in some motor oil or what-have-ya–but the “oil” is purple? Turns out it’s from the leaky leg of a giant robot that somehow snuck in to his giant garage at work–which just happens to be a top-secret non-traditional space program? What happens next? Is the robot on its own? Or is someone driving him, and just got lost?

Or Melanie, what if she’s just stepped in some doughnuts that someone fumbled? What if there was a bit of a fender-bender on the highway, and half a load of doughnuts slid out of a truck? I know it’s sounds like a waste, but how could we make things super interesting?

All right. That’s enough to get the mental snowball rolling, to be sure.

April is just barely under one quarter gone here.

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

Until next time,

Ty

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