Everyone who is in any sort of creative writing industry, whether it be movies, TV, journalism, blogging or radio, will always give the same advice (if they are any good).
And that is ‘write what you know’.
It’s the best advice, because no matter the story, if you know a lot about it, it shows through and if there are any fans of that subject out there, they will get it, and enjoy it…maybe even enough to buy the corresponding clients product.
There are other advantages to writing what you know too. First off, all your research is already done! No need to look up information about things that may or may not exist – you already know. Plus, you may already have unconscious sentences, paragraphs at the ready somewhere in your brain that you weren’t aware of until you started writing about it.
This all helps in creating a fully functional narrative. A beginning, a middle and an end. Something that is full of hints, secret words and dialogue that shows you have actually been there, seen that or done it. Words that only people in the know will understand.
And of course, THAT is the point.
You are directing your writing to reach that particular person, hopefully thousands of them. Interspersed throughout thousands of others who will pay no attention or negative attention to your creation. That is the collateral damage when it comes to creative writing in the broadcast industry. And very tough to explain to people outside of the sphere of advertising…especially clients new to it.
Neophytes often believe that advertising must be understood by everyone because it is played for everyone. It’s a common misconception of course and easily understandable. Why is this commercial talking to me, if it doesn’t want to reach me?
Fair question…IF you were the only person on earth…because there are a multitude of people around you with varying tastes and needs, all who are also listening to that commercial. It’s something we can’t avoid. If we COULD target the exact people all the time…we definitely would. And we are getting close with internet advertising, but even that is fought with misfires.
It’s why a lot of people don’t get local tv ad’s. Sometimes they are crude, poorly produced and unintentionally funny. While all of this is true, it is also true that it works, given the fact that it continues to this day. The reason it looks funny to you, is because they are not talking to you. Watching/listening to ads is like instantly showing up in a conversation talking about something, anything. It’s POSSIBLE they might be talking about something that interests you, but more times than not, it’s not for you.
But even when it IS for you – sometimes you can tell they are talking through you, and not too you. Something that has all the facts, but not presented in a way that is true to you – a form, a way of speaking, an order of words, that YOU (the writer) know.
You can tell this is happening when you want to take action, but don’t. (ie: there is a great sale going on at store x, but it’s so poorly presented, you assume the product is poor too).
So the next time you write something creative for a client, even if it’s for a product you don’ t know much about – find out about it, know about it…but most of all, write about it from a standpoint that you ALREADY know about. A viewpoint, a certain type of intro, a sense of humor that is yours.
Apply what you know to something you don’t.
The people that CARE about the particular product you are talking about ARE listening, and they will take action if THEY know that YOU know what you are talking about, by HOW you say it.
Write what you know.