Why Good Non-Fiction Articles Read More Like Fiction Writing
You’re probably here to find some secret that no one else knows about – one that will give you an advantage over other writers. Or maybe just get people to read past your headlines.
This isn’t Click-bait, this is the opposite.
I finished writing and publishing my hundredth short story this past week. In a little over fourteen months. And can tell you it’s changed how I write non-fiction.
Because the same people who read non-fiction also read fiction. And fiction is more popular than non-fiction because it isn’t boring. I believe it was Hitchcock that said a good story is like life, but leaves out the dull parts.
And if you take a similar approach to tailoring your non-fiction with those elements, you’ll be in good shape. Because writing fiction follows the same proved concepts as good copywriting.
The Key Concepts of Fiction Make Non-Boring Articles
All short stories follow the same basic approach – at least in our Western culture:
- A hook
- The rule of three
The hook gets their interest. It’s emotional, it gives the reader a reason to read the next line or paragraph. Good copywriting has this all the way through. Your headline and first sentence have to do something, or promise something to the reader. The reason click-bait has such bad connotation is because writers didn’t keep their headline tied into their first sentence, and that sentence then gets the reader to go onto the next one. Nothing worse than a story that starts slow. Louis L’Amour had the tagline of “stories that start out like a bullet”. And the point is to get the reader immediately into what’s happening next. Like Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and his three-witches opening.
The rule of three means the main character will try, but fail, and learn. Then the MC will try, fail again, and learn some more. Finally, the MC will try, then at last succeed. In non-fiction, every point has to build interest, excitement, and the pace needs to pick up as you go. Most people won’t remember over three points out of any list. In Malcolm Gladwell’s books, he usually puts a teaser at the end of each chapter that says something like, “yes this is true, but it’s not the whole answer…” Stick to three main points, make them flow from one to the next with rising interest.
Validation is at the end of a short story. This was probably first laid out by Algis Budrys. Once a story is over, tell the audience it is. Tie up all loose ends and explain how you didn’t fall for the red herring in the mystery. The villain either escapes or gets captured. And why the villain did it and how – that is all explained by someone. In non-fiction you have to summarize and connect the dots so that the reader knows how those three points help them get the benefit you promised at the beginning.
And then you’re done.
Or are you?
But Wait, There’s More…
The bonus point to all this is the teaser. Where your Call To Action really shines. In a serial fiction, you then start up another action or emotional situation that lies incomplete until they can get the next installment or chapter. The hero winds up in the last sentence hanging off a cliff. For non-fiction, it’s more like “If you think this is good, come see what else we have…” Just not that blatant… perhaps. Rather: “This is just a small excerpt from our library of ebooks and courses where you can learn more about (article subject). Click here or type into your browser…”
- Rule of Three
That should keep your readers coming back for more. If not, sit down with a stack of short stories and dissect the ones you can’t put down. And maybe re-read a few classic copywriters – the best are all good storytellers.
Sure – visit me at https://livesensical.com/writing and I can show you more tips about writing – and yes, I have several books and courses you can invest your time in…
Also published on Medium.