How Content Writing is a Lot Like Telling Stories to a 4-Year Old

storytellingThis past week, I spent a lot of time in cars, buses, and trains.

With a four-year old.

Consequently, I also spent a lot of time making up stories about a kid with magic powers that lives in a fire truck and fights a fire-emanating villain named George George. (Fire and firefighting are popular themes with this particular four-year old.)

On the final leg of the journey, it hit me: content writing is a lot like telling stories to a four-year old. Here are five of the shared truths I’ve personally found between the two arts:

#1 Keep Your Sanity: Tell Stories in Installments

I guess storytelling is only as challenging as you make it for yourself. But, if you want a good story – a story that produces conversions for your client – then you need to have layers. Creating multiple layers to your story takes foresight, and creativity. So, why not make it easy easier on yourself and tell your story in installments? Try the classic 4-part narrative arc, advises Lorraine Thompson.

The installment approach doesn’t just make things easier on you, but it also allows you to pack more punch into each twist and turn of the plot. Furthermore, if you do it right, you’ll have your audience hooked, keeping them coming back for more. There’s a reason why Charles Dickens’s publishers serialized his novels.

#2 Your Story Must Meet the Audience’s Schedule

When you’re telling a story to a kid – especially when the story is a distraction technique – you have to be ready to perform on your audience’s schedule. (Stories have to be ready on demand.) If you’re wondering how to get conversions from content, then you might want to try native advertising. The latest in online advertising trends, native advertising meets the audience on the audience’s home turf.

#3 Create Dramatic Figures

Try creating an engaging children’s story that doesn’t feature any dramatic figures.

It just doesn’t work.

In children’s writing, characters won’t suffer from being a little on the outlandish side. At the same time, good content writing and advertising has to feature some strong dramatis personae to achieve the desired effect. You don’t have to create your own Most-Interesting-Man-in-the-World (Dos Equis) to have a dramatic figure. Rather, your brand’s voice itself can be the dramatic figure. Take well-voiced bloggers like those at Copyblogger as an example of how the company and service can stand in for the dramatic lead.

#4 Thinly Veiled Allusions Work Best 

Kids are smarter than you think. They can handle somewhat subtle allusions and references. Don’t insult their intelligence, and don’t insult your audience’s intelligence.

Prolific copywriter David Ogilvy is famous for saying, “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She wants all the information you can give her.” Ogilvy believed in being forthright and presenting the truth; he also believed in trusting in the audience’s intelligence.

#5 Tell Stories in Your Audience’s Vernacular

If you really want to know how to get conversions from content, then there’s one major rule you can’t afford to overlook: write in your audience’s vernacular. Words and ideas that your audience – or the listening child – can’t latch onto will slow down the story’s momentum and may even lose the audience entirely.

How do you use storytelling in your writing to capture an audience?

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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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