Posts Tagged With: narrative writing

What Aspiring Writers Can Learn from Instant Coffee

Anybody who has ever worked in advertising (like yours truly, natch) knows how tough it is to tell a good story while you’re trying to promote a product.  I could bring up the time I had to write about a certain brand of high-end skater hoodies (yes, hoodies, as in a sweatshirt with a hood on it), and ended up writing about both ninjas AND space aliens — but I won’t bore you with the details.

Suffice to say that my favorite example of advertising storytelling is probably the old Taster’s Choice commercials (aka Nescafe Gold in the UK).  I’m not a big fan of commercials, but there’s something to the art of storytelling to be learned here.  I’d like to draw your attention to the new tab at the top of the page: Storytelling Secrets from Taster’s Choice.  I had a lot of fun with that one.

And yes, you can write a novel using the same tricks that the instant coffee people used.  Read it and I’ll show you how. 

New media is heading this direction, I think.  We’re seeing filmmakers large and small putting out webisodes featuring ultra-short episodes of a longer story arc, each one crafted to tag you into watching the next.  Sort of like chapters in a novel.  Hmm…

Anyway, not to spoil anything, but the coffee couple had a happy ending.  Just read the book.  (And yes, somebody wrote a novel about those two.  Seriously.)

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Today’s Writing Prompt: Kill Your Character!

You’re not killing her, not really.  Just bear with me for a minute.  This is one of my crazy creative writing exercises.

First, write a short scene where a major character gets killed.  Show it from the perspective of another viewpoint character.  How it happens is up to you, but it should be directly connected to the main conflict of the story.  No random bus accidents here.

If your characters are pursuing a killer, have the killer strike.  If they’re climbing an unconquerable mountain, have one of your characters fall to his death.  Make it really happen.  Write it out. 

Here’s the important part: have the point-of-view character react to the death.  What do they feel?  Shock?  Disbelief?  Anger?  Guilt?  Put it in there.

Got it?  Good.

Now, go back and change the scene so that the character just barely survives.  Or have your point-of-view character realize that she misread what she saw.  Whatever you do, let the audience believe for just a moment that maybe the character really did die.  Then pull them back from that ledge and let the character live on.  But keep the emotion in there.

Now, for the follow up.  How does this event change your characters later?  Do they feel differently about each other after this brush with death?  They should.  At the least, they should realize what they really mean to one another.  Ideally, they should realize something new about themselves.

Happy writing!

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