Think Like a Fiction Writer and Write a Better Blog
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Applying Fiction Elements to Blogging: Part 1 of 3
A heads up--this will be a three-part series. My first blog series. I'm so excited!
What the heck does fiction have to do with blogging? Well, I'll tell you. Great writing has everything to do with blogging (in my humble opinion). Does that mean you have to be the Joyce Carol Oates of blogging? Nope. (Being the JCO of anything would be a tremendous accomplishment!)
Thinking like a fiction writer means writing with your audience in mind. You have to engage your audience, and so do fiction writers. Otherwise, what's the point? You end up talking to yourself.
The Five E's of Audience Engagement
Let's start with why people read fiction: For entertainment, enrichment, education, enjoyment, and escape. That's a lot of e's.
Why does your audience read your blog? For entertainment, enrichment, education, enjoyment, and escape.
Looks like we found common ground between your blog and a work of fiction: It's your audience. Is everyone in your blog's audience a fiction lover? Maybe not. But it doesn't matter.
The Power of Story
They may not be fiction junkies. But I'll tell you what all of your readers want and need, even if they don't realize it--a good story. Whether it's 100% make-believe, or 100% true, everyone loves a good story.
Think about it. Whose social media posts do you enjoy more? The endless, pointless stream of selfies? Or the posts that tell a story? I know which I prefer, and it ain't bathroom selfies y'all.
Making the Leap: Stealing from Fiction
So, how do you tell a good story? What if you don't consider yourself a storyteller? What if you don't think your blog is anything close to a story?
Let's put a few things to rest, in a neat little row:
- Most anyone can tell a good story.
- We're all storytellers, in a way, even if we don't know it.
- Your blog already tells a story. Why not make sure it's a good one?
Fiction Factor: Setting
At first blush, you might be wondering what I'm smoking. Setting? It's a blog. There's no setting. Right?
A setting in a good story functions as much more than a pretty backdrop. The setting helps set the mood of the story.
Yes, your blog has a setting. What kind of setting do you want it to be?
A good blog takes the reader somewhere and evokes a mood.
Still Don't Believe Me?
Let's look at several examples of blogs and their settings:
- Here's a blog that evokes a darker mood: Faiiint. When I browse, I get the edgy, sleek, dark vibe. I believe that's exactly what they're going for!
- On the brighter side, there's Blog Beautifully. The clean, feminine design, branding elements, and content send out positive, warm, friendly vibes. Having interacted with Krista over the "internets," I can tell you that vibe is so her.
- Want an uber-minimalist example? Amy Lynn Andrews provides one. Lots of white space, consistent colors and fonts, and no-fuss branding. What's Amy like in real life? On her crazy-useful Knowtbook page, she calls herself a minimalist business owner. Exactly.
- Just for fun, how about a zany, humorous blog? Storytime with John is full of goofy, giffy goodness and humor. (Yes, I made up the word giffy, and we're going with it.)
Establishing the right setting for your blog
First a note: Don't attempt to copy another blogger's vibe. If it's not your vibe, leave it alone. Trust me. Your readers will know. They're smart like that.
Before you start tinkering with the setting of your blog, let's answer a few questions:
- What's your blog about?
- Who's your main audience?
- How do you want your audience to feel when they visit your blog?
- What are three words that describe your blog's mood?
Now that you've got that down, you should have a good starting point. Let's say you already launched your blog, but never really loved the design.
Well, go back to your answers. Do your design, branding, and content support your desired setting (how you want your readers to feel)? Or does it take your blog in a totally different direction?
If your blog is about mindfulness, yet your design is cluttered, busy, and flashier than a neon-velvet Elvis...well, you get the point.
Be authentic with your readers. You can't expect your audience to keep engaging with you, if they don't know who the heck they're going to meet the next time they visit your blog. Be you. Be real. And be consistent.
Make sure your website design, branding, and content match your desired setting.
tips for Setting the Mood
All the Pretty Colors, Fonts, and Designs
Much has been written about the psychology of color. For example, red is said to excite, while gray calms. It's true that some people might react differently to these colors, but you might consider the psychology of color as general guidance.
So many colors, fonts, and designs! How to choose? I get it. I'm like a kid in the toy aisle at Wal-Mart, when it comes to fonts and lovely stock images.
- Experiment! What colors, fonts, and designs appeal to you? The best way to figure out what looks good is to experiment. Test different combinations in your web settings, and be sure to try the nifty brand creation tools in Canva.
- Ask friends and fellow bloggers. Screenshot a few different design schemes and ask which is preferred. (Be sure some of these folks are in your target audience.)
Bottom line: When choosing your design and brand elements, keep your audience in mind. How do you want them to feel? Does your design support that setting?
You can ask for input, but only you can decide which design is right for your setting and your brand. Don't be afraid to change course, if your branding doesn't feel right.
(If you want to take a deep dive into color psychology, read this informative article.)
Whitespace Is Okay!
Sure, you could fill every nook and cranny of your blog with STUFF. But a better practice is to give your readers some space. They need to breathe. Be able to move around a little.
Remember, just like in a novel, people interact with the environment and are impacted by it. Your audience is impacted by the environment you provide.
(If you want to know more about whitespace, read Why Whitespace Matters.)
So, to put it visually...is your blog this:
Or is your blog more like:
Your Content Is Key to Your Setting
Your blog's content should support your desired setting. If you want your readers to brim with hope after stopping by your blog, your content should support that.
Of course, you have more than one interest and more than one side to your personality. And I did ask you to be real with your readers.
Here's the thing. I write about depression sometimes. It's part of who I am and has been for most of my life. But this blog isn't about depression. (If yours is, I support that wholeheartedly, by the way.)
What I'm saying is: Be consistent with your content. Be consistent with your topics, style, frequency, and length. Your audience expects it. And if you don't deliver, someone else will.
How to keep your content consistent?
- Filter your ideas: Have a lot of ideas? Me too. Not all of them will make it onto this blog. Thank goodness. Get all of your ideas out of your head, and then filter them. Ask: Does this topic fit my audience? It doesn't have to be gold, but it has to be good!
- Set a schedule: Set a goal and schedule for how often you'll post. Once a week on Thursday? Try your best to do that. It won't always happen because life doesn't work that way. And it's okay. But if you don't schedule it, it probably won't happen at all.
- Check yourself: Review and revise. If something sounds clunky or doesn't feel like you, cut it or reword it. The best writers are likely also ruthless editors.
Phew! It seems like we covered a lot in this post. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll dig into how the fiction elements of plot, dialogue, and character can be applied to your blog.