“It was dark inside the wolf,” is how Margaret Atwood believes the story might have opened.
Emily Dickinson would agree. “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant,” was her advice to those of us who want our emails to be opened, our stories to be read, and our voices to be heard.
If you want your subject line, headline, or opening line to win attention, “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.” Approach your subject from an interesting angle.
The head-on approach is for journalists without wit.
“Elderly Woman Eaten by Wolf but Survives.”
You are not a journalist without wit.
Are you captivated by a photograph or story?
Let me give you the reasons why:
1. It represents an idea bigger than itself.
2. Part of you feels like you are there.
3. Your imagination is called upon to fill in what was purposely left out.
4. The subject is approached from an interesting angle.
Do you want to secure the engagement of your reader, listener, customer?
1. Make your words about something bigger than you and your product.
2. Put your reader, listener, customer into your story, your speech, your ad.
This is easily done using second person perspective and present-tense verbs. “You are walking through a forest when you hear the shadows of the trees sucking the light from the air around you and notice a four-legged shadow making its way slowly through the trees, coming toward you…”
3. Did you see what we left out?
We did not say it was a “dark” forest, but you saw darkness anyway. We did not say “ominous” but you felt it when the shadows came alive and began sucking the sunlight from the air around you. We did not say “wolf,” but you saw one in the four-legged shadow making its way slowly through the trees.*
4. Questions flood the mind when a story is entered from an interesting angle.
Why are we in the woods? Where are we going? What will we do when we get there?
Whether spoken or unspoken, questions are the unmistakable sign of engagement.
No questions, no engagement.
No engagement means no sale, no income, no rave reviews.
But you will have all these things and in great supply because you subscribe to the Monday Morning Memo and you understand, and believe, what I have told you.
But I will not tell you about our monthly webcast unless you really want to know.
Confession: I write words to attract successful people; a group of people who tend to be perceptive, intelligent readers. My rejection of false claims, hyperbole and exclamation points is a form of targeting-through-ad-copy that is more reliable than any customer list money can buy.
The fact that you have read these musings all the way to the end makes me think highly of you.
Very highly, indeed.
Roy H. Williams
* Likewise, nowhere in this Monday Morning Memo did you read the words “Little Red Riding Hood.”