Ever read a James Patterson novel? I have. Every one.
And, every time I do, I curse the bastard!
Not the character, but Mr. Patterson himself. Why? Because…I don’t want to stay up until 4am to finish, really I don’t. But, he grabs me with the opening line, hurls me in, then greases the slide thoroughly-enough to render me powerless to stop my screaming descent to the last page.
He makes it un-put-downable.
Is he a master of story-telling, plot-development and suspense? Sure. But, he’s also a master of a handful of literary techniques that appear in the world of direct-response copywriting. They’re the ones that compel you to read long after you’ve decided you really don’t have time to devote another second to the book, blog or ad.
And, once you know them, they’ll give you the near-magical ability to make almost everything you write, from ads to blog-posts and letters to books, a giant step closer to un-putdown-able, too.
But, rather than talking in the abstract, let’s use a concrete example of how powerful these techniques can be.
We’ll use blogging as an example…
For a while now, in the blogosphere, there’s been a raging debate about partial versus full-feeds.
For those not in the know, partial feeds are when you get your blog updates by RSS or e-mail and they feature an opening paragraph or two and then require you to click-thru to read the rest. They are the equivalent of of an advertisement for a product or teaser on the cover of a magazine for the full article.
Full feeds, on the other hand, include the entire article in the update. There’s nothing to click, it’s all right there.
Hardcore blog-audiences tend to hate partial feeds…
Because they force the reader to click through to the blog to read the rest of the article, which wastes precious seconds. And, while this doesn’t sound like a big deal, if you have hundreds of feeds to read..it can get pretty ugly, pretty quickly.
Bloggers, on the other hand, fear full-feeds…
Because they open the blog up to massive scraping (content-stealing by unscrupulous ad-driven blogs) and drop page-views, which, if you advertise, can really cut into your income.
But, what if, as a blogger, you could have the best of both worlds?
What if you could use partial-feeds to tease or advertise your content and learn how to make them so un-put-downable that pretty much everyone just had to click through? And, then, what if, once landing at the full article, you could make it so compelling, readers just had to stay with it until the end? You can, but to to do this…
…you need to take a few lessons from the world of direct-response marketing
Legendary direct-response copywriter, Joe Sugarman, once said the purpose of every sentence in a long-format ad is to get the reader to read the next sentence. And, so on and so on.
A-list copywriter, John Carlton, went further, adding that the headline stops people in their tracks, hurls them to the top of the slide and then each subsequent sentence greases the slide as they careen downward without so much as a glimmer of hope of pulling themselves out before they hit the end.
Reality is, all addictively-compelling writing greases the slide…
There are so many ways to apply the grease. Question is – which are most effective?
Here are 5 power-copywriting techniques you can adapt to not only make your partial-feeds so un-putdown-able everyone will not only have to click through to read the full-article, they’ll help make entire article immensely more suspenseful and compelling…
- End pages or insert the “more” tag in the middle of a sentence – people have a natural compulsion to finish what they complete. I actually wrote about this in my earlier article on the Zeigarnik effect. And, this applies not only to projects, conversations and tasks, but to sentences, too. So, if you intentionally set up a circumstance, end a sentence in your partial-feed or blurb mid-sentence and then continue it on the blog, people will be naturally compelled to click through. They need to complete the task. This technique is used all the time in direct-response advertising with long-format sales letters and great suspense writing. And, it’s often combined with the…
- Use of ellipses – You know, the old dot-dot-dot…these suckers work wonders! When I turned in the first draft of the book I am working on, my editor made a point of crossing out every dot-dot-dot and changing them to periods or commas. Which is fine for a book, but…when you are writing shorter articles, letters or posts and you want to compel readers to finish in one sitting, ellipses have a near magical ability to lead the reader to the next word and into the next part of your story. Periods or exclamation points, on the other hand, create a hard-stop in the readers eye-scanning pattern and thought-process and gives them an opportunity to opt-out of the rest. So, consider ending headlines and sub-heads with fewer periods and more ellipses…if you want people to keep reading longer.
- Pique curiosity – Ask a question or set up a story that peaks curiosity, tease the answer, build curiosity, but don’t actually resolve anything until the very end. Curiosity is a massive motivator, tap it as an attention-keeping asset. Every great suspense-novelist uses this technique, often mercilessly!They open the book in the final seconds of a horrific crime, knowing this will plant the seeds of a curiosity that will lead the reader to keep reading until that curiosity has been satisfied.
- End every paragraph with a teaser - make the last sentence of your paragraphs tease information that will be delivered later on in your content. This is like ending every television show with coming attractions for the next show. It sets up a desire and a commitment to get to the next episode or paragraph. “Just one more,” we tell ourselves, until we get to the next paragraph that teases the next…and so on, and so on…
- Use headlines liberally - Sub-heads not only allow skimmers to decide whether to come back and read the details, they also break up the blocks of content, allowing for an easier reading experience. Plus, psychologically, it lets you say, “I’ll just read to the next heading,” and before you know it, you’re done. James Patterson essentially does the same thing with his use of 2-5 page chapters. Each one is so short and digestible, we are drawn to keep committing to reading “just one more” before we turn the lights out. And, before you know, we’ve devoured the whole book!
For an example of all of these techniques in action…
- Go check out the sales page at CareerRenegade.com, or,
- Go back to the feed, e-mail or front-page blurb for this article, then follow them back through this entire article and see if you can count how often I’ve used these techniques.
Then, tell me your total count in the comments below.
But, before we wrap this all up, there’s something you really need to understand. Something that will make or break whether these techniques draw readers in or alienate them…
Use them only for good, never for bad…
In fact, these tools are so powerful that they can override a fair amount of bad writing, poorly conceived stories and, even, blatant pitches for ideas, products or services the reader clearly does not need or want.
When you use these them as a form of trickery, without also delivering value, your readers will get, um, pissed off to say the least.
They’ll feel taken advantage of.
So, play with incorporating these tools into whatever content you create, but, remember never to cross over to the dark-side. Start with a foundation of value. Write the best, most-useful, inspiring, entertaining, informative content you can…then utilize these tools to help nudge your readers to stay long enough to get the point!
So, what do you think?
What other ways can you think of to create suspense and compel a full read?
Did you find all the places I snuck these tools in? How many did you find?
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