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Your Blog: Time to Play

a guest post from Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com

With apologies to the character named Pinhead from the Hellraiser movies, who uttered that line as he was about to slowly fillet a helpless victim just for grins…

… maybe you’re taking yourself too seriously.  I know I was.

My blog is an oh-so-serious venue for fiction writers, offering tips and techniques and instruction from all perspectives on the craft.  Intense stuff for people with aspirations to publish their work.

And it seems to be working fine.  My subscribers and, to a lesser extent, my traffic have grown continuously after one year online, and to the point where the site has actually landed me a book deal.

But that’s not my point today. 

My point today is the realization that my most clicked-on, pingbacked and commented-upon posts were those that were, in effect, a break in the action.

Posts that, in the midst of all that literary pretention, were just for laughs.

Everybody enjoys a good grin. 

Even writers and bloggers who, like me, take themselves oh-so-seriously.

To add a little scale to this declaration, here are some numbers.   Five times I’ve posted articles that had nothing at all to do with the primary focus of my site, other than a thin relevance to words themselves.  And all five times, my traffic tripled.

Tripled.

And as a result, my subscription based nudged upward, even as I went back to the drudgery of mentoring people on how to write novels and screenplays. 

And interestingly enough, while trending upward as a result of this, traffic went back to where it was the very next day.  It was like a restaurant having “Free Drinks” day. 

Which told me I needed to do this more often.

The first time was a timeout from pontificating on dramatic narrative to tell some funny stories (mostly on me) from book signings gone wrong.  Of which there are plenty.  I was three months into blogging at the time, and my reader Comments (which were admittedly thin) tripled overnight.  People loved laughing at me, it seemed.

A while later I posted a puzzle – literally – and, under the guise of another writing post, challenged readers to do the seemingly impossible.   Puzzles are fun, so once again, traffic on that day increased threefold.

Then I just went straight at it – I offered up a joke that writers would find funny even if nobody else would.  Best response to any post I’d had to date. 

And then, just to test this comedic water, I tried yet another joke with even better response this time, possibly because it was a better joke. 

There were a couple months and forty or so posts separating these little smile breaks. 

Which means I wasn’t remotely watering down my brand.  Rather, I was fertilizing reader relationships (take that particular analogy any way you wish…)

I’m motivated to share this with you today because I’ve just finished yet another Time to Play type of diversion that garnered me a positively Probloggeresque number of responses.  I threw a little contest out there, using a clever wordplay concept, and the result exceeded my expectations.

Wordplay games for writers is like beer pong for college students.

Over 70 people joined in, with over 300 “entries” to the contest.  Every one of them is a punchline, by the way, so if you’re looking for a few grins, click here to check them out.  

So for now it’s back to hooks, sub-plots, character arc and how to land agent.  But my readers know a few laughs are in the near future, and like friends sharing a project, we all look forward to a little break now and then.

Especially when it’s as strategically-sound as it is appreciated.

Larry Brooks is the creator of Storyfix.com, a site for writers seeking to publish their work.  He is the author of five novels, including his latest, Whisper of the Seventh Thunder, which isn’t remotely funny.  More like something Pinhead would appreciate.

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Comments

  1. Hi Larry,
    Are you kidding? Humor is by far the quickest way to reach people. If you make me laugh that means you have my undivided attention. Sometimes people just need to step away from reality for a moment and have a good laugh.
    Of course, I wouldn’t suggest you abandon your blog’s objectives just to make people laugh, but I believe even the most informational of posts have room for at least one witty piece.
    Keep up the amazing work.

  2. I agree with you on this one. Sometimes we can take ourselves too seriously and the topic can end up too dry if we don’t lighten up enough.

  3. Josh Garcia says:

    Hey Larry,

    I do enjoy reading funny post! We all love to laugh. After all, it’s great for the body and mind. It makes us feel good and it increases the blood flow to the brain so we can stay focus for the remaining of the day.

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  4. Mritunjay says:

    The point here is to make your readers interested in whatever you write. If your readers are giving you their undivided attention, well..nothing like that. Including a witty piece, every now and then, in no way indicates you are losing your main focus. However, Your loyal readers know, what you dish out..the quality stuff again and again..so a bit of humour is a welcome diversion…

    Its more like watching Hellraiser and in between you went out to have a bucket of popcorn..you feel filled and now you can enjoy the antics of pinhead all over again…;)

  5. Skip says:

    This is definitely true…not just in blogging but in most walks of life. I know that if I sprinkle in a little humor in my teaching, my students pay better attention and engage more actively. And sprinkling seems the right verb–enough to taste, but not so much that you cover the central goals.

  6. I totally agree with you Larry. I posted an article that took me less than 5 minutes to write and it was (and still is) one of the most commented articles on my blog.

    Here’s the article…..

    10 Tips to Feel Good Instantly

    Here are 10 tips to feel good instantly:

    1. Smile
    2. Smile more.
    3. Smile even more.
    4. Smile even more than that.
    5. Smile when you don’t want to.
    6. Smile when you do.
    7. Smile if you feel good.
    8. Smile if you don’t.
    9. Smile everyday.
    10. Keep Smiling :)

  7. Mike Piper says:

    Just to play devil’s advocate for a second: If your traffic went right back down to where it was afterward, what was the value?

    Did you also notice a spike in revenue? Links? Subscribers? (You say your count “nudged upward.” Does that mean it was a larger-than-normal nudge?)

  8. Giving your readers variety is the name of the game. When you can shake them out of their daily routine and provide them with a little entertainment, something to “spread around the office,” you can really go viral with your overall business.

    The most successful videos and web sites are usually build around entertaining the customer first, then educating them in a way that doesn’t seem like you are teaching AT them.

    As copywriter Ben Settle likes to say, it’s like giving them a broccoli that tastes like a hot dog. They get the vitamins they need, but it’s in a package that they want.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  9. Larry says:

    @Mike — yeah, that seems a bit contradictory. What I know is that site visits spiked on Joke Day, and then the next day went back to roughly normal. But that traffic contribued to an overall upward trend in subscriptions and links, leading to the same trend in site visits. And yes, my revenue increased appropriately. But then, being in the first year, I’m still in a base-building phase.

    Whatever we do to increase visibility and traffic is a good thing, provided it aligns with the intended branding. Looks like we have a quorum on that count thus far.

  10. Ryan says:

    Ya you definitely have fun once in a while, however, I worry that if you do it too much that your site will change from “useful” to “entertaining” which becomes infinitely harder to monetize.

    Instead I think it can be potent to add a bit of humor into all posts while at the same time making sure they are useful.

    just my 2 cents tho ;)

  11. Great post. I transitioned my blog for super serious, marketing this, social media that, business development to more of a day to day account of my life which included humor along with serious posts about business development. But my thought was that people were probably more interested in a real account of who I am instead of canned articles to drive in traffic about marketing and social media. So far, my traffic has gone up.

  12. It makes sense when you think about it. Useful information is great, but sometimes we need a little break to sit back and laugh at ourselves. This is a reminder for me. Thanks Larry.

  13. George185 says:

    It’s true. In my short time working on the internet, I have learned to add a little levity to my writing.

  14. I was giving this a lot of thought the other day about whether my blog was professional enough depending on my whole niche. I was obviously stuck in my head, but I realized that humour is a part of who I am as a person.

    And I realized that as long as the majority of my posts are still aimed for the people who read and not to be a comedian, then it’s okay. This blog has been inspirational.

    I think I’m going to write a funny blog post this week. I think it will definitely be a lot of fun.

  15. James Dyson says:

    I like the idea of “fertilizing reader relationships” – this is definately an interesting strategy and something I have perhaps hesitated to do in the past on some of my blogs – so it’s great to hear how it has impacted your business.

    ~James

    p.s. I’ve referred a good friend of mine to your blog – he is an aspiring writer and he’s loving the content.

  16. Joshua Noerr says:

    Larry, it’s funny because when I first started, I was way too serious. Since I blog about personal development, I felt I had to always be profound. Since I lightened my tone, readers are enjoying it much more, and I am getting much more traffic.

    At the end of the day, I need to remember, I started this blog because I enjoy it, and it’s fun, and I like helping people. And a little word play or joke out of the blue can be a part of that!

  17. Hey Larry, you’re actually right. I’m all so serious about most of the posts on my blog. Need to let the hair down once in a while.

    I don’t think of myself as a funny guy but your post seems to tell me to at least give it a try. Thank you for the inspiration.

  18. Julius says:

    I also think that adding in a good amount of humor would break the seriousness of blog posts. I also try to take a popular event or item and tie it up smoothly with the message of my articles.

  19. I had seen so many bloggers who writes in a way they are joking, but there are a lot of serious stuff inside, i do agree that there is some risk of getting off-focus . But if you handle it well , being a little funny always works.

  20. Tammi Kibler says:

    I am trying to figure out how to lighten up on my blog from time to time. I think it is important not to sound like a teacher or preacher in every post. Even they (teachers and preachers) know how to sprinkle a little fun in the message, or the better ones do anyway.

    Thanks for this encouragement (and examples) to keep trying to find the right balance.

  21. Fred Kapoor says:

    Of course, humour should always be there as one of the components for our posts. However, it is important to make sure we are still being respectful with the audience and the rest of the world. Respect is the basis, the rest comes after. And in my opinion, a blogger should try to add the funny elements to his/her posts after a while, after he/she has gain the necessary experience and confidence to do so.

  22. Steve says:

    Great advice, and oh so welcome! I have heard so many times that I should never stray from writing about my particular niche. To be honest, there are days when my particular niche makes me want to puke and I would rather write about anything else, underwear skid-marks, than my niche.

    I have to write a post today, Perhaps I’ll write about that today. Probably not!

  23. Ivan Walsh says:

    Hi Larry,

    since we’re in a light mood…

    ‘Basically my wife was immature.

    I’d be at home in the bath and she’d come in and sink my boats.’

    Woody Allen

  24. Dan O'Connor says:

    Hi Larry,

    I totally agree with what you saying. My blog can deal with some pretty deep and heavy ideas. Humor can really break this up.

    As a new blogger I had great success with a single post featuring my granddaughter illustrating the steps in a process. It was quite a rush.

    Also as a new blogger I am interested in the mechanism of how this happens on a per post basis.

    So, your regular readers like it so much they share it with their friends and followers (tweets etc.)? Yes?

    Thanks

  25. Devin says:

    Hi Larry,

    I would definitely be in the class if I think, I can’t say that, I just leave it in. This has more frequently to do with ridiculous commentary more than writing off-topic. However, I really like the idea.

    best,
    devin

  26. hokya says:

    yeah you’re right

    but the difficult one for me is to make people grin, like this :-D

  27. axel g says:

    “Everybody enjoys a good grin”

    Humor is a beautiful thing, there’s nothing like a good laugh…

    Great post Larry!

  28. Glen says:

    Very nice Larry.

    It’s often good to get away from your blogging topic (Slighlty!) as it shows them you are human and lets you show a personal side to your readers.

    I think I will try this more often.

  29. Seka says:

    Hi Larry,

    I’m just in the process of experimenting with my blogs as far as tone, subject and writing style. Since my website is all about my writing, I spend a lot of time thinking about the line between professional and personal. Any thoughts on the balance?

  30. Curt, I love ya. I’m a video-game fanatic as well as a guy who appreciates honesty and loyalty. And sports stars who stay “real”.

  31. While it’s good to post off topic every once in a while, I find that my ever green content is always the “dreary boring stuff” that you mentioned.

    And it’s this stuff that will maintain your website in the search engines.

    I agree mostly with your points of mixing it up, but I’ve warn those just starting out to stick to their topics until their blog has the audience to warrant doing this strategy.

  32. Great article!
    I have been on a mad dash to drive traffic to my blog-site and am killing myself with daily posts and whatnot.

    As you mentioned, I’m taking myself too seriously. My business is located in Buffalo NY and I know that there are millions of things we Buffalonians would love to read about… chicken wings, Hockey (go Sabres) and stuff like that.

    I am going to give this a shot. Thanks for the post!

  33. Linda says:

    As the first verse of the well-known poem Solitude goes:

    Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
    Weep, and you weep alone.
    For the sad old earth must borrow it’s mirth,
    But has trouble enough of its own.
    Sing, and the hills will answer;
    Sigh, it is lost on the air.
    The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
    But shrink from voicing care.

  34. Rae says:

    Okay, Larry. I see what you are talking about. Have been to many blogs sites since the class and this one is for certain the most helpful.

    Shakespeare knew of the need for levity among his play goers. Darkness needs the contrasting light. Between the threat of danger and the arrival of danger, bring on the clowns for a moment. While the crowd still laughs, dive back into the darkness where the battle begins, or the murderer corners and spits his victim.

  35. Joetta Yip says:

    which 70-200 lens is the photographer using??? 2.8 IS, 2.8 non-IS, 4 IS or 4 (non-IS)?