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6 Fiction Writing Techniques to Improve Your Blog

This is a guest post by Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn

Many people want to write a book and maybe you’re one of them. Perhaps you don’t want to write a novel, but these fiction writing techniques can still help you improve your blog.

1. Character

At its core, fiction is about characters and how they live, who they are and what they go through in the course of a book. If a reader doesn’t care about the character, why should they bother reading on? The same is true of your blog. If readers don’t care about you as the main character, they will go elsewhere. If your content is dry and devoid of personality, people will click away.

You can show character through the use of personal anecdotes about you and your life, either on your blog or through social networks. You can use video or audio to present a more rounded view and incorporate the rich variety of your life to infuse blog with character.

2. Setting

All books have a setting, and so do blogs. In fiction, it might be a faraway planet, ancient Rome or a vampire’s lair that give a sense of place. For blogging, the equivalent is your blog design including use of images, color and theme. This will set the tone for your blog or your book and is just as important for either.

A blog on finding true love is unlikely to have a dark, Gothic theme; a sports blog will probably not be pink and fluffy. Setting and blog design influence how the content is perceived before people even start reading so it’s critical to consider what people experience when they first arrive at your site.

3. Genre

It’s important when writing fiction to consider the genre you are writing in, because the rules and expectations differ widely. Consider romance, science-fiction, and horror. The readers are different. The books sit in different places on bookshelves. It’s the same with blogging. You can try to span multiple areas but you will find your message diluted. Decide on your genre or niche and stick with it. It’s the only way to make an impact.

4. Plot

The plot of a novel is the story that pulls a reader through the book to the climactic finish and leaves them wanting more.

On a small scale, every blog post needs to act this way. You want people to read to the end so try to pull them through with a story or save your best information to the climax. On a larger scale, your blog needs to have a plot that keeps people coming back over time. That can be a posting schedule based on delivering specific information on different days of the week. It can be categories of posts that spark areas of interest, or a series of blog posts that tie a whole subject together. It might also be sharing compelling aspects of your life that function as a plot over time.

5. Dialogue

Dialogue between characters is critical in bringing a novel to life. It allows us to glimpse the people behind the story and watch interactions between the characters. As a writer, dialogue can sometimes be surprising when your characters behave differently than you expected. You can also give a problem to characters to explore in dialogue and often find your writing issues solved.

Comments on your blog and interactions on your social networks are the dialog between you and your reader. You can use this dialog to glimpse your readers behind the text of your blog and use the information to adjust your content accordingly. You may be surprised at who your readers actually are.

6. Show, don’t tell

This is the cardinal rule of fiction writing. The point is to always demonstrate a character through action or dialogue, rather than exposition. So instead of saying “Jane was kind to animals”, you show Jane rescuing a wild bird from barbed wire, speaking in a calm voice while carefully separating the torn feathers.

In blogging these days, you can use multi-media to show, not tell. For example, if you’re doing a post on how to perform a perfect golf swing, make a video that shows the exact steps instead of writing a text post. That will bring your site to life as well as providing valuable information for your audience. You can also create audio interviews and information on topics that demonstrate your expertise and enable your audience to know, like and trust you.

So embrace your fiction writing skills and improve your blog at the same time! How are your fiction writing skills coming along? Do you use these techniques on your blog?

Joanna Penn is the author of Pentecost, a thriller novel. Joanna is also a blogger at The Creative Penn: Adventures in Writing, Publishing and Book Marketing. You can connect with Joanna on Twitter @thecreativepenn.

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Comments

  1. Blog is a communications tool. This is why dialog is so important. Writing blog post is not enough, you have to reply to comments, show readers you care about what they have to say. Maintaining a healthy dialog on your blog helps build authentic relationships and trust.

    People need to stop talking at their audience and start having conversations instead.

  2. David Perdew says:

    This is such a unique perspective that really makes sense. Joanna demonstrates that the same qualities that make an exciting novel can be applied to a blog or a series of articles as well. In the future, I will be thinking about the things that my favorite books interesting, and apply them to my own communication with my audience. Great post, thanks.

  3. Eddie Gear says:

    Good structure to writing. I read a lot from the Creative Penn. Thanks for this write up.

  4. Akos says:

    Great post! I think a character and the setting are the most important.

  5. Mike Lopez says:

    Wow! Awesome. I’ve been wanting to write a book of my own, not to mention also improving my blog for years and this article is perfect for me. I wonder if this too would apply in an eBook?

  6. Great post, i like to read dialogue type fiction.
    .

  7. Petr says:

    Nice post, but… Do not take it personally, Joanna. but I have feeling I read these advice many times in different modifications. If this would be one of my first readings of similar posts, then I would be happy to read it. Now it is only about repeating things.

  8. Jane says:

    Fantastic and something close to my heart. Cheers for the brilliant relation.

    Jane.

  9. Excellent job as always Joanna. The ability to tell your story and other stories within a business blog has always been a useful tool, but it’s becoming even more important now as we move away from talking/adverstising at people to building relationships. The tips you give here apply to that aspect of blogging as well. And if people aren’t sure as to where/how to begin to incorporate your ideas, working with their own story, a recent event, the story of their biz, could be an easy place to try things out.

    • Joanna Penn says:

      Thanks Cheryl. As you say, authenticity is so important now and our stories are what make us unique so are important to incorporate into our posts and products.

  10. Thanks for that great article. I particularly like the idea of having a good plot. It’s pretty important. A good plot gives an audience something to hand on…maybe the plot for problogger is ‘probloging tips for bloggers’ for me, it’s a rant about my income online. Good plots are important to capture people’s attention.
    Tim.

  11. Ian Kater says:

    A blog is simply a comm. tool; so I don’t know who would bother listening to someone who sounds different on the blog than they do in real life- portraying pretentious attributes. So its good to be who you are on your platform, no ones forcing you to blog anyway.
    I love the SM point, nowadays its all about the engagement. That’s how you will reap social media love ;)

  12. Fiction is my first love,so I really enjoyed this! Thanks for a new angle!

    • Hey, I just realized..Fiction is my first love too…that’s where I fell in love with words and stories. Thanks for helping me remember that!

  13. petershine says:

    Thank you for the post about adopting fiction writing techniques for blogging effectiveness. Not being clear for me about how it’s working, you did help defining what’s the effective solution. I did like the part, “Building an attractive Character”

  14. Simple yet very effective points, Joanna. Thanks for sharing a great idea for posting. Now, I’m off to check out your blog!

  15. Joanna Penn says:

    Thanks so much everyone, and thanks for having me Darren and Georgina!

  16. Paul Wright says:

    Great post I really appreciate the input, hopefully I will heed your advice and write more compelling stories that make for a great read.

  17. Robby G says:

    Show don’t tell is key, I believe. Also, putting in some subtext can never be bad. I know it has to be done very professionally, but it’s possible to incorporate it to help the overall post. The reason I began my blog was to essentially improve my writing while having people read what I write. It’s been very helpful to have to write almost daily, because I feel it really helped me grow as a writer.

  18. Joanna Penn says:

    @Robby – you’re definitely right about blogging helping with your writing. It also helps your confidence as you get (almost) instant feedback and networking helps too.

  19. Abuzar Tariq says:

    I think Dialogue between you and reader is most important factor that we should concentrate. It will help us what our readers want to see in our blog.

  20. Regis Dudley says:

    Great comparisons, Joanna! As a PR student, I sometimes find myself struggling to find a medium between concise writing and interesting storytelling. This post will help my blogging be both interesting and succinct. Thanks!

  21. Great post! It’s always good to retain these writing principles at the front of our minds for it aid our writing but I especially love the application to blogs generally. Love it! Thank you Darren and Joanna Penn.

  22. Tinh says:

    Dialogue is the best way to do anything even in politics and it seems to be a great communication channel that can take effect immediately :-)

  23. papa echa says:

    i agree to put some dialogue on the blog, it will make our blog more attractive

  24. TkTak says:

    Thanks for this great post i agree with you, that some dialogue will be good in blogs as you say.

  25. Stuart says:

    I consider myself fortunate that I come from a fiction-writing background. The techniques and skills I’ve learned from writing over the years has paid off with my content on my website, and for others.

    This post confirms my suspicions, really :-)

  26. T.Lee says:

    But what if your blog IS fiction? I write web fiction, posting a serial fiction in diary-journal format, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to see an article about fiction here on Problogger. (my pulse quickened, eyes dialated and hands danced rapidly upon the keyboard, lol).

    I’ve never considered the relationship between fiction and (regular) blogging, and I found this concept intriguing. And I agree on the importance of dialogue, and the richness of benefit recieved by comment interaction. (This is a beautiful thing on web fiction too, where the main character, the supposed writer of the blog, interacts with visitors, and where the visitors have the power to actually affect the story line, much the same way comments on regular blogs have the power to affect future blog posts).

    But what I enjoyed most about this article is following the trail of links, leading to a gold mine of fabulous sites for writers, including yours. (Congratulations by the way for placing in the top ten blogs for writers @ writetodone.)

  27. Simple and to the point, I enjoyed this. Thanks, Joanna.

    I have often thought that fiction writing techniques are very applicable to blogging, so it was nice to read this and see that others out there feel the same way.

    Best wishes,

    Peter

  28. You did a great job of pointing out the parts of a good story. One thing I struggle with in a blog post is if I write a well rounded story with all these elements, then it takes me hours. It is like publishing a story each post. It feels right, it satisfies the writer in me–but to think I can do this every couple days is exhausting and is a full time job.

  29. Joanna,

    This is great advice, and I’m psyched to finally see someone online draw the comparison, and point out the advantages of this approach. As the proud holder of a Bachelor’s Degree in English from UMass Amherst, this has been how I structure the majority of my own blog posts, as well as the freelance work I’ve done. To me the biggest asset is the emotional connection that this approach allows you to make. Logic is great, but emotion sells!

    Again, thanks for sharing!

    • “Logic is great, but emotion sells!” thank you for the reminder. I think this is SO true. Thinking of it is actually inspiring my blog post for Friday instantaneously.

  30. Bra Queen says:

    GREAT POST JOANNA! LOVE IT xxx

  31. Great post Joanna. As a graphic designer I can tell a great story visually, however I often struggle to tell the story through words.

    Showing not telling is such a powerful tool. I write all of my design blog posts from my own experience. I try to show them what I have done, rather then tell them what to do.

    Thanks once again.

    Steve

  32. Jo says:

    Down to earth and enlightening post Joanna. Yes, writers have heard some of it before, but oh how easily we forget … and need reminding. It’s often lonely sitting behind the computer and I think pithy, to the point, easily digestible material like yours is almost like having a critique partner sitting on your shoulder.

  33. Great post, Joanna! So, so true! I have taught workshops to nonfiction writers in which I lead them through fiction writing techniques like this. Nonfiction without the elements you mention here tends to be dry and boring. It’s great to see a discussion of this for bloggers!

  34. Having not written fiction since school and being a writer who doesn’t feel she ‘has a book in her,’ this was very interesting to me. I think I cover the main points with my blog writing but it was an interesting process to uncover. Thanks!

  35. Great blog and enjoyed reading the comments. I started my blog with a character: Gal Vanized, the roller derby girl in training and it morphed into a brand identity for me. I’m going to be instituting all of these tips into my blog as it unfolds. Thank you.

  36. Excellent…I would say this should have been named Writing A Book 101

    I would like to write a post about the same in my blog and link to this one. Great!

  37. Amber says:

    Nice tips. I never thought of comparing it to writing for fiction, but good writing is good writing period. Thanks!

  38. Great tips Joanna! These are very helpful.

    Another tip to make your readers come back to your blog is by making a series of article like, How To Make Your Business Successful on Facebook – Part 1, then schedule Part 2 on the next few days. Just make sure your first entry is worth reading.

    Always be creative. :)