Are you a copywriter? Or a writer in general?
I have some original advice for you that has nothing to do with grammar, words to avoid, or punchy headline templates.
If you want to be a better writer, whether it’s for copywriting, screenplays, scripts, speeches, ghostwriting, blogs, articles, and even technical writing, sign yourself up for an acting class.
I encourage writers (all kinds) to take an acting class for these reasons:
- It gets you out of your head and into your body.
- It informs your storytelling and deepens your character development.
- It widens your lens of how people behave and what motivates actions.
- It can give you many ideas for stories, articles, or sales writing.
- It creates more self-trust, spontaneity, and self-permission.
- It will help you know yourself deeper and more intimately, which will spill over into your work.
Another reason I encourage writers to take an acting class? It’s a masterclass in storytelling.
As copywriters, we hear about storytelling a lot and it’s the same (boring) advice: use it to create an emotional connection. This is kind of obvious, right?
Here’s the next layer: why does the emotional connection matter? Why is it important? What could be gained or lost if this emotional connection does not happen? And why is that life/death decision or situation important to a character, audience member, or customer?
How will an acting class improve my writing skills?
All of us are brilliant actors.
We act every day.
We act on social media.
We act at work.
We act in front of our in-laws or that weird cousin we don’t like.
We act at holiday parties.
We act like we know what we’re doing.
You may not realize it yet, but you’re already an actor.
Here’s how taking an acting class will inform your copywriting:
- You’ll physically learn how stakes feel in the body.
- You’ll learn more about character development & human motivation.
- You’ll become an expert in physically stepping into a character, immersing yourself in their world, and living life from their point of view (think ‘mind or voice of the customer’).
- You’ll let go, have fun, and learn a lot about yourself and your emotional responses.
- You’ll develop deeper compassion, empathy, and pathos by playing a different character — I’ll talk about this more later.
All these skills are invaluable for writing visceral, converting copy.
What are ‘stakes’ and why do they matter?
In copywriting, this is sometimes referred to as ‘building momentum’ or ‘listing the pain points.’
In the performance and novel-writing worlds, ‘stakes’ refers to what could be gained or lost in a situation and how important that is to a character, audience, or customer.
When actors do scene study, they have to decide why a character would choose to remain in a scene.
What’s the motivation that’s keeping them engaged or fighting for something? Why wouldn’t they just walk out?
Simple: everything must be viewed as a decision between life and death.
If I am in a scene with someone and I’m trying to get them to agree with me about something, it must be viewed like this: if they don’t agree with me, I just might die!
It’s important (and necessary!) to get them on my side because it affects how my life will go and how I will feel. It affects how I will live and exist from this moment forward.
It must be that crucial or I wouldn’t care (and neither will the audience). As the actor, I would walk out of the scene, unaffected by if this person agrees with me or not.
And the audience would leave because there would be nothing to watch — there’s no conflict.
Making the choice a life/death decision creates more urgency and importance to getting this other person to jump on my bandwagon. Because if they don’t?! It might just be the end of me!
This creates momentum, angst, emotional attachment, and energy.
How can we craft our writing to create a visceral sense of a life-or-death decision?
What is the copy fighting for and why would people care about that?
- Why would the reader keep reading?
- What is it causing them to feel they must have, do, or be or they just might die?!
- Or better yet, that they will live better, fuller, and with more happiness?
Even if we’re writing about a simple pair of leggings, it’s good to consider. Why?
Because those leggings may be the catalyst for someone feeling better about themselves, leading them to start exercising, building confidence, and healing. The leggings were the catalyst that literally gave them their life back.
How can we create stakes and tell that story in the copy?
The Gift of Gab: Improving Your Dialogue Writing
Guess what happens when you read more scripts, participate in scene study, and do line memorization?
You improve your dialogue writing.
As a copywriter, you may have to write dialogue from time to time. An acting class will help you uplevel this skill.
Watching a great TV show or movie isn’t enough. When you have to memorize lines and feel how they affect you physically — while also responding to another actor onstage — you receive valuable insights about how humans think, manipulate, cajole, and get what they want through words.
You can get inside the mind of a character who doesn’t think or respond the way you do — and this can be gold for future copy.
When you can get inside the mind of a character, you can get inside the mind of a customer.
And when you get inside the customer’s mind, you can find numerous avenues to viscerally connect with them, their problems, and how you can help.
What’s Love Got to Do With It?
As copywriters, love may not be the first thing on our minds, but it should be.
Love is the motivation behind everything we do.
Getting it, giving it, feeling it, attaining it, wanting it, craving it, desiring it, creating it, grasping for it — we are always vying for love, even if we aren’t fully conscious of it.
Wanting love is never a boring choice.
How can what we are writing about make someone love themselves or their life more?
What are the benefits, and do those include more love, in any form?
There is not a human being on earth (that I’ve met anyway) that doesn’t want to experience more love.
If we are stuck on a benefit, love is a good go-to to get us started.
Creating or experiencing more love can consistently be a benefit to anything we’re selling because most people are buying stuff and services to create self-love, even if it isn’t obvious.
Why do people buy services like yoga classes, retreats, or even business seminars? Because they want to feel better about themselves and their life, hence, self-love.
Why do people buy products like blenders, meal kits, skin cleansers, toys for their kids, or a new lawnmower? Because they want to feel better about themselves and their life. They want more value. They want to feel pride, joy, and fulfillment, which are all forms of LOVE.
A blender can help someone eat better — creating more self-love.
A meal kit can help someone create more time for stuff they want to do — creating more self-love.
A skin cleanser can help someone feel better about their appearance and build confidence — creating more self-love.
Toys for someone’s kids can help them feel more connected to their children, creating enjoyment as the kids play with them — creating more self-love (and love in general).
A lawnmower can help someone fix up their yard, making them aware of their accomplishments and being a homeowner — creating more self-love.
Every product or service is a throughway to love in some form.
Dig deeper. Most things are not as they appear.
We buy products and services because we are trying to create a feeling or an experience we don’t currently have. We are lacking something and it aches.
FILL THE ACHE.
Making love a benefit will always tug at people because we desire love over everything else — even if we do not articulate it.
If you’re still reading (thank you), I hope these two lessons help you with whatever kind of copy you’re creating.
Think of your copy as the catalyst that makes someone stay in the scene and fight for what they want.
Think of your copy as the connection that will help someone experience more of the self-love they are craving, desiring, and yearning for.
Not only will you pull at people’s heartstrings, but you’ll also make their lives better by solving their problems and adding value to their experiences.