“I am for the art of ice cream cones dropped on concrete.” – Claes Oldenburg, Born Jan. 28, 1929.
This is our shared art also. The art of concise, visual imagery that evokes a reaction formed of personal emotions dredged from inside the audience, rather than from our words.
These reactions are more powerful than anything we can create, because they belong to the reader. And by coaxing them into injecting bits and pieces of themselves into our work, they take ownership of the tale. They accept their role and become part of the story that ends in purchase.
Staring through the darkness at the red numbers on a digital alarm clock, thinking of what will happen when sun lights the room in a few short hours.
A broken office chair in a gray cubicle under green fluorescent lights, and the smell of burnt popcorn. Again.
An attractive person is obviously talking to their companion about you. They giggle and glance and point without concern that you can see them doing it.
What feelings do those brief passages evoke if you picture yourself in them? Project yourself into each. What is your response to that scene?
These have no context – if you felt sad or anxious or happy or eager – you brought that out of your memories of feelings from being in or observing or hearing about a similar situation, imagined or in the actual past.
That is powerful. Because the brain has trouble telling the difference between a feeling, and the memory of a feeling. Sadness and remembering sadness are largely identical, in other words. Imagining a situation of excitement and eagerness will make you excited and eager, too.
Use with caution. Or not. I'm not a cop.
Need a bit more to build on? Here are a handful of ways you can tell stories that get your reader emotionally engaged.
1. Focus on extremes. Strong emotions work best in this trick. Outrage. Sorrow. Tearful joy. The audience reaction is always lesser, so go big to get a usable response in your reader.
2. Tell actual stories. By which I mean your information is presented as an anecdote. Setting, characters, a plot that unfolds and results in an outcome. People can relate to other people if you give them a way to do so.
3. Use tangible sensory info. As many as possible without making it weird. Show, don’t tell, as they advise. Show the scenes through the characters’ physical experiences, and this forces the reader to take on their perspectives (and thereby adopt their emotions).
4. Use confusion to create transitions between memory and imagination. A shocking or surprising plot twist can leave your audience unsure where to continue the emotional thread you’ve spoonfed them, and this invites them to insert their own feelings into the situation that happens next.
5. Map it to shared common experiences. When you’re beginning your story, start with a familiar scenario that the audience has experienced for themselves, or at least one that they’re familiar enough with to dive right in. This makes it easier to ease into the emotional journey.
6. Using private, shameful or embarrassing scenarios are a shortcut to trust. When you put characters into a compromising situation, maybe even including yourself, your audience can strongly relate if they’ve been there themselves. It helps if this situation is related to the problem your products or services help solve, obviously. Because it shows you understand their issue, and presume you can assist.
BONUS. A simple sales story arc goes from normal, to disaster, and their encounter with your solution to their problem is what brings them past normal and into joy and success. The offer is then made for their own chance to get that solution, so they can move from normal, or prevent their own disaster from being the end of the narrative. The offer is the helping hand reaching down to pull them up. They just have to say yes.
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