As we creep closer to Halloween, it’s hard to forget those iconic horror stories that emerge from the shadows of our minds as we lay down to sleep – stories like The Shining, Carrie, and It. These stories were all penned by one of the world’s most prolific authors, Stephen King: The master of the macabre. The wordsmith of woe. The craftsman of creepy.
While it may not seem like it, there’s a lot you can learn from Stephen King’s writing when you’re crafting online content. Think of the stories we mentioned earlier. They’re engaging, memorable, and they evoke an emotional response – all things you should be aiming for with your content.
Don’t believe us? Well we’ve collected some of the best tips from King’s guidebook On Writing and outlined how they can help you write content that will stick in the minds of your audience and inspire an emotional and meaningful response.
An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here.
As in fiction, a strong opening in a piece of online content is crucial. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to bombard the reader with every single detail in the first sentence. We’re not trying to disparage the ol’ inverted pyramid model of writing, but a short teaser sentence at the start of your blog or social post will tempt the reader into your copy and make them want to read further.
Paragraphs are almost always as important for how they look as what they say – they are maps of intent.
In the modern world of scrolling and skimming, something that content writers should always think about is how the piece as a whole looks on the screen. If it’s a long, densely packed block of text with few paragraphs, it will seem far too imposing. Break up your paragraphs into a few sentences apiece and don’t be afraid to use subheadings or bullets. This isn’t dumbing down your piece of writing – it makes it aesthetically pleasing and easier to engage with.
Avoid passive voice and adverbs in your writing.
To King, these are two of the biggest enemies of good writing. Only write with a passive voice when absolutely necessary – it makes copy clunky and difficult to read. Meanwhile adverbs (such as “he closed the door firmly”) are often redundant. Look at the context before your verb and you’ll find the reader will probably be able to infer how the character closed the door already.
Try any goddamn thing you like, no matter how boringly normal or outrageous. If it works, fine. If it doesn’t, toss it.
Be daring in the types of writing you pitch to clients or managers. Blogs and articles often tread the same ground, so when they’re presented in a new format, or with an interesting twist on the angle, your audience will appreciate it.