Slaying Writer Dragons: Epic Skill #2, Emotional Prowess

Slaying Writer Dragons: Epic Skill #2, Emotional Prowess Welcome back, you epic writers, you. For the last two weeks, we’ve been talking about why it’s necessary to make every project into a big bad dragon you have to fight, and what you can do to make yourself better at fighting said dragon.

This week’s lesson: How to kick some emotional butt.

Put the Freud down. I said, PUT THE FREUD DOWN. We have other things for you to put your attention toward. And they are way more fun than figuring out your relationship with your mother.

Instead, you’re going to figure out your relationship with someone else’s mother.

That seemed way less creepy in my head. Allow me to explain:

The Power of Emotion in Writing

Whenever you write, you’re appealing to someone’s emotions. This is absolutely the only way you will ever sell anything with your writing, ever. Emotional appeal is why we want things. “Wanting” is an emotional impulse. We cannot deny it.

The trick to using emotion in writing is not to make the writing itself emotional. Very few people want to buy from someone weeping all over their website. This does not inspire confidence, and only in rare occasions does it inspire people to pity and hire you.

The key is making the person reading your writing feel emotion. Which is why you really, really need to learn how to flex your emotional muscles if you want to get your just rewards for your next writing project.

Creating an Emotional Response

As human beings, we have emotional reactions to all kinds of things. Some of the very common ones that trigger emotion are family, love, security, success, power, excitement, sex, and glory. It’s tempting to throw “money” into this category, but the truth is that we don’t actually have a huge emotional attachment to money.

We have a huge emotional attachment to all the things money can get us.

And this is where many writers go wrong.

“Buy this product”, they write. “You’ll make tons of money! ”

Okay, cool. Tons of money is cool. But make me want tons of money. Make me want to drop everything I’m doing right now to get it. To do that, you need to appeal to something deeper in me. Something like…

“You’ll make tons of money – which means you’ll never have to wake up before noon again. ”

I love it. I’m there. I want to never wake up before noon. Ever. Again. Hell, it’s not even noon right now, and I wish I wasn’t awake. If your product can let me go back to bed, I am SOLD. I have an emotional attachment to my bed. And you just tugged at my little heartstrings.

Strengthening Your Emotional Muscles

All right, now you know why you need to use emotional writing. But how do you figure out how to appeal to your reader’s emotional responses?

After all, we all have strong emotions about various things. You may not like sleeping in as much as I do, for example. That emotional call won’t affect you as strongly. So how can you figure out which emotions your audience responds to?

This is where you learn how to be an emotional mastermind.

Go talk to people. This is very important. Talk to lots of different kinds of people, but if you have a niche market with a very common demographic, spend a lot of time talking to those people in particular.

Find out about those people, what they do for fun, how old their kids are, what they worry about, what they get psyched about, where they’re going on vacation.

The better you know these people, the better you are able to appeal to their emotions.

Take notes, too. Craft big files full of the traits of your target markets. And practice outside of your target market, too, just to keep you on your toes. If you usually write for middle-aged moms, try writing for single male businessmen instead. Go find out what they’re all about. Find out what makes them different from your demographic.

Now test your skills. In a one-on-one conversation, try to convince them of something using what you know about their emotions. Talk about how good it would be for their kids. Talk about how good it would be for their bottom line. Talk about how it’ll help get them to Hawaii.

Practice until you have them dancing to your fiddle whenever you want.

Then use those same skills to make your writing knock every project out of the park. Your clients will be so impressed that they shower you with gold and give you lots of new dragons to fight, for equally huge rewards.

And your coffers will get so very full that you can knock off to Italy for a month to work on your novel, nary a deadline in sight.

See what I did there?

Post by Taylor

Taylor Lindstrom (fondly known as Tei) is a twenty-something copywriter and journalist from Boulder, CO. She’s the team’s rogue woman who wowed us until our desire for her talents exceeded our desire for a good ol’ boys club. She loves the color green, micro-point Uniball pens, and medieval weaponry.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. ““You’ll make tons of money – which means you’ll never have to wake up before noon again. ””

    Oh that’s an ah-hah! moment. It’s very easy to assume one KNOWS why one would want to make a ton of money….spelling out the reason behind it really does grab the emotional reactions.

    Must revisit me own copy……. :)

  2. That’s nice. As @barbaraling says, it’s a step further in creating an emotional response. I knew to say “This product will be awesome *for you*” rather than “I made an awesome product”, but explaining the benefits of that awesomeness definitely grabs people even more.
    .-= Robin Cannon´s last blog ..Simple Collapsible Content With jQuery =-.

  3. This is very much in line with Kathy Sierra’s philosophy about helping users kick ass: if you convince your customers that your product or service will help them kick ass, then they’ll buy. Of course, then your product or service had better *really* help them kick ass, or you’re little more than a snake oil salesman.

  4. @ Kathleen – Well, that’s only if the people *want* to kick ass.

    For example, I want to kick ass, yes. But I *really* want to take off on a summer-long road trip vacation around La Belle Province starting June 2010 and live like a bohemian arTEESTe in some of the most beautiful places I can think of.

    Kicking ass does not get me there. It’s not my emotional trigger to take action and do something. :)

    @ Robin – The fun stuff is, you can find the benefits of the benefits of the benefits and keep going until that poor reader is just absolutely stunned that his life will *never be the same again*. Amazing.

    @ Barbara – Ayup. We all need it spelled out. I can’t see how renting a particular car will benefit me unless I read an add that tells me how much more comfortable my road trip will be and how much space I’ll have for my baggage and how easily it’ll drive up those mountains that basically slow any other car down to molasses (which means I’ll get to my holiday spot way faster…)

  5. Funny – I have no problem being all emotional about my fiction and yet when it comes to selling my services I used to try to be all clinical and keep emotions out of it. Of course James slapped me upside the head enough times that I finally learned to be emotional in both.

    And speaking of dragons, here’s another great post about why dangerous dragons are necessary today from the (amazing) author Patricia C. Wrede: http://pcwrede.com/blog/letting-the-dragons-in-part-ii/
    .-= Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome´s last blog ..Self-Development Check-In: How Did You Do? =-.

  6. Kenji Crosland says:

    Nice post James,

    It’s amazing how handy that “Thinking about other people” trick is, even in the supposedly “solitary” activity of writing.
    .-= Kenji Crosland´s last blog ..How to Write a Bio =-.

  7. Love this line “Practice until you have them dancing to your fiddle whenever you want.” Great post!

  8. Barbara – It is a mistake I used to make all the time. The problem is that we assume everyone has the time to be smart while reading our copy, but the truth is most people are reading our copy while they’re being lazy. They’re bumming around the internets. They are not necessarily making logical leaps, so you have to make them for them.

    Robin – Weirdly, “I made an awesome product” almost never works. You would think though, wouldn’t you?

    Kathleen – That’s true for anything you’re selling. You have to believe in it, or you’re kind of a bastard.

    James – You lie. You don’t want that at all. What you want is to sit on top of a throne and have everyone bring you scads of gold while you orchestrate the madness.

    Alex – Oh, I love Wrede! Dealing with Dragons and its sequels are happy books!

    Kenji – Yeah, it’s almost like we’re not alone in the world. Craaazy. It’s funny how much of writing is simply using common sense, but it’s remembering to switch it on that’s tricky.

    Also, this post was from me, not James. I want credit for bringing dragons to the blog.

    Jenny – Thanks!
    .-= Tei – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Slaying Writer Dragons: Epic Skill #2, Emotional Prowess =-.

  9. Great post, Taylor. Playing on someone’s emotions seems tricky and sneaky, but it’s incredibly effective, and a lot of fun. Why more copywriters and businesses don’t do it, I don’t understand.

    The last bit of advice you give is scary to some writers, though. Talk to people? What? How could you ask us to do that? We’re WRITERS. We deal with words not PEOPLE. Obviously, I’m exaggerating, but I have met writers like that. Just wanted to point out, that copywriters have an easy way out now to get to know people. More than ever, people are freely giving away info about themselves on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. Tap those sources.

    They’ll never be as good as actually meeting people, but they’re not a bad second.
    .-= Adam Di Stefano´s last blog ..De-Voodoo-fying SEO =-.

  10. I love the theme of this series–slaying dragons. It’s so vivid and fairy taleish that it makes me think of fiction. And it makes me realize that the fiction I find most moving is really tightly structured. I love when writers use a lot of restraint and never gush–I think of Ian McEwan, Henry James, Rohinton Mistry….

  11. Practice until you have them dancing to your fiddle whenever you want.

    I love that line!

    This is a fantabulous series–I think I’ll go read this post again. ;-)
    .-= Michele | Writer’s Round-About´s last blog ..Writers Are Superheroes =-.

  12. Yes, great line – “Practice until you have them dancing to your fiddle whenever you want.”

    It has nothing to do with anybody’s mother either.

    It has everything to do why women are the BOSS. Just one of life’s facts.

    Accept it – life gets way more easier that way. :)

  13. Talking to people is a good but you also needs to get the details. An old reporter trick is to “remember to get the dogs name”. Just talking is not enough. Asking the right questions and sometimes just being quiet, will give you incredible insights into what people are emotional and passionate about. Great advice.
    .-= Jarie Bolander´s last blog ..Best Biz Practices: Web 2.0 Online Press Releases =-.

  14. read my website the muscled metrosexual of your dreams will knock on your door with the winning lottery ticket in one hand and keys to the Porshe in the other–even better than the fabled law of attraction…

    is that what you mean?
    .-= Kaushik´s last blog ..Floating… =-.

  15. Adam – This is an excellent point. All you fearful writers out there – fear not. Go CYBER-meet people. Also, get outside, would you? You’re going to turn into vampires. Go hit on a hot guy on the hiking trail or something. Or a girl, you know. Whichever way you roll.

    Jody – Excellent. I will compete with McEwan any day.

    Michele – Aw. I just blushed. Say it again!

    Mark – ‘S right. Did you hear that, James? I am the BOSS.

    Jarie – Remember the dog’s name, huh? I like the advice about asking questions, that’s true. You just have to be careful to guide the conversation, instead of taking it over entirely and simply reinforcing what you think you already know. The point is to learn, not teach.

    Kaushik – Something like that, yes. Except that guy is already in my bed. Want to know how I got him? Keep reading . . .
    .-= Tei – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Slaying Writer Dragons: Epic Skill #2, Emotional Prowess =-.

  16. Geez, you make it sound so simple, yet I blow it most of the time. I love how you mention mixing it up from time to time. I think that also helps build chops and find your voice. Great post.
    .-= Nathan Hangen´s last blog ..Living the Life Phase 1 – Mission Accomplished =-.

  17. Wow. I am totally impressed! Nice work!
    .-= Brendon´s last blog ..Violin lessons. THE LEFT – HAND: PRACTICE =-.

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  2. [...] at MenWithPens have a series of posts around the theme of slaying writing dragons (here’s the latest installment) – might be useful for those of us who are struggle along with writing or are finding it hard [...]

  3. [...] at MenWithPens have a series of posts around the theme of slaying writing dragons (here’s the latest installment) – might be useful for those of us who are struggle along with writing or are finding it hard [...]

  4. [...] Emotion shines through your writing. If you’re filled with enthusiasm, it comes across in your work. If you’re passionate about your topic, your prose engages more than a polished piece on a subject the writer didn’t really care about. [...]

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