What Eudora Welty Taught Me About Content Marketing
Welcome to the Content Creator’s Toolbox, our series dedicated to helping all creators of all types of content keep those creative juices flowing. If you have a creativity question or challenge you’d like us to address in a future post, drop us a line!
I confess, I can be a little short-sighted sometimes. If I want to improve my writing, I tend to reach for a book on writing, without even considering the wealth of outstanding examples that I could be reading purely for inspiration. And much of that inspiration can be found flowing from the pens of our colleagues just across the aisle from us at the local Barnes and Noble: the fiction writers.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a huge surge of interest in storytelling across the marketing community, and who is better at storytelling than, well, professional, published storytellers?
To illustrate this point, let me draw a few examples from one of my favorite short stories: Eudora Welty’s “Why I Live at the P.O.” It’s a quick read, so if you’re so inclined,go check it out. It’s okay — I’ll wait.
Oh, hey, you’re back already? Cool.
I dearly love this story for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that my own, um, “unique” family looks almost normal compared to the parade of characters we meet in Welty’s tale. But it also offers a wealth of hidden gems that we content marketers can stash away in our own trusty toolboxes.
1. Offer a Compelling Title
Spoiler Alert: The “P.O.” in the title stands for “post office.” Okay, it’s not much of a spoiler, since we find out that our heroine is a postmistress — at “the next to smallest P.O. in the state of Mississippi” — after just a few paragraphs. But then the real hook takes over — “Why on earth would anyone live at a post office?” — and keeps us reading until the very end.
Content Creator’s Takeaway: Sure, it’s good to convey in your titles exactly what the reader is getting … but mix it up now and then with an element of mystery. (Tweet this)
Example from this blog: Why I’m Taking Facebook and Twitter Off My Business Cards
2. Use Dialogue — and Dialect — to Develop Characters
Ever find yourself reading a long narrative passage in a short story or novel and find yourself relieved when the author returns to dialogue?
Dialogue not only interjects a human element into a story — it also quickens the pace to keep us engaged. Welty’s tale is mostly driven by dialogue, lovingly crafted with an unmistakable mid-20th-century Southern flavor.
She never has to tell us, for example, that the heroine’s younger sister is a narcissistic prima donna — she lets us hear it with lines like this:
“Never mind, you won’t be found dead in it, because it happens to be part of my trousseau, and Mr. Whitaker took several dozen photographs of me in it […] What on earth could Uncle Rondo mean by wearing part of my trousseau out in the broad open daylight without saying so much as ‘Kiss my foot,’ knowing I only got home this morning after my separation and hung my negligee up on the bathroom door, just as nervous as I could be?”
Content Creator’s Takeaway: Add life to your content by finding opportunities to replace narrative description with rich, character-building dialogue. (Tweet this)
Example from this blog: Content Creators, Embrace Your Inner Tim Gunn
3. Play With Format to Create Context
“So Papa-Daddy l-a-y-s down his knife and fork!”
“Stella-Rondo just calmly takes off this hat, I wish you could see it.”
There’s laying down a knife and fork, and then there’s l-a-y-i-n-g down a knife and fork. There are hats, and then there are hats.
Welty is a master at using these subtle tweaks to infuse even the simplest objects and actions with tremendous meaning — meaning we each define for ourselves.
Content Creator’s Takeaway: Play around with spelling, punctuation, spacing, and formatting to give flavor to important content elements. (Tweet this)
Example from this blog: What a Can of Red Bull Taught Me About Content Marketing
Okay, campers, your turn: What inspirations do you take from fictional books, stories, movies, plays, and how have they amped up your content creation mojo?
About the Author
A self-described geek who can recite entire episodes of South Park by heart, Rachel Parker has had a passion for content ever since she was old enough to hold a crayon (purple, please).
As Founder and CEO of Resonance, Rachel helps businesses publish content that connects with their audience … and converts those followers into customers. She’s also the host of the Content Marketing Podcast and a sought-after speaker, having presented to many major business and marketing organizations. Contact Rachel about speaking to your group or business.
See you again next week!
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