Have you ever written anything from a fictional character’s point of view?
A client was looking for ways to save his chiropractic practice during the COVID-19 shutdown. But he was tired of the emails he was getting from other businesses. He wanted something more positive.
The chiropractor has a Yorkshire Terrier. She goes wherever he goes, including the office. So, she became the voice of a weekly advice column on how to cope with pandemic-related problems.
Of course, I had to help her with some research: Where do Yorkshire Terriers come from? (Answer: Scottish workers brought them south to work in Yorkshire textile mills.) What’s their job in the real world. (A: They’re supposed to catch rodents.) Can they experience the same emotions that their human companions do? (A: Yes.)
There are always learning lessons with each project. Here are three from this one.
Stay in touch with no matter what
I learned this lesson during the crash of 2008: stay in touch. At that time, a small business owner said that his newsletter was the only thing that kept him alive.
During the pandemic shutdown, my inbox filled with emails, mostly from retailers. I didn’t unsubscribe from the lists, but they were annoying. The email app did too, because most of the emails ended up in my spam folder. Unfortunately, one athletic shoe store had to close its doors because it depended on older in-store customers. The other retailers were more set up for online shoppers. I imagine they suffered, though. People don’t want to shop for nonessential items when there’s so much uncertainty.
If you’re in a service business, staying in touch with is different. Your subscribers want to hear from you. You also want to be there for your community; but you don’t want to be pushy.
In response to the shutdown, service businesses were very creative. My cowork space hosted virtual coworking sessions and support groups every workday. One newsletter editor started hosting once a week concerts.
Have fun with your messaging
Uncertainty is stressful because lives and livelihoods are at stake.
As in a movie thriller, a little humor goes a long way to relieve tension so we can consume even more tension. My chiropractor decided to relieve tension by having his dog be the voice for an advice column.
We didn’t ignore the pandemic, which was the recommendation of many in content marketing world. But we wanted to stay positive with our messaging. And by staying positive we would help people cope and encourage them to stay healthy.
Those who didn’t want to receive the weekly emails unsubscribed. But most stayed with us.
Connect with your character’s voice
The weekly advice column forced me to be creative in a way that I had reserved for a writers’ group. In the group, we would write flash fiction based on a prompt. So, I used my flash fiction skills to develop a character. My messaging fell apart when I forgot her voice.
For any kind of writing, we need to develop personas, a fictional character based on a real person. We spend a lot of time thinking about and empathizing with our personas because we want to engage them in meaningful ways.
As writers, we write in our own voice. But we also have to connect with the brand. This is hard to do unless we occupy a character that represents the brand’s voice. For instance, I had made the mistake of editing out a brand’s voice for a sole proprietor who is sassy and fun. So, I had to retrace my steps to reconnect with her character’s voice.
It’s as if you’re an actor: what would your character say now and how would she say it? By opening up to the character, letting the character speak through you, you get to be more creative, edgy even.
You might also like How to Set the Stage When Writing Isn’t Your Thing and Why Content Marketing Isn’t Fluff.
Image courtesy Frost Chiropractic