How to Leave Your Readers Better Than You Found Them

A guest post by Nathalie Lussier of Raw Foods Witch

Why do you write your blog?

Maybe you are writing to share your point of view, help others, or just get things off your chest. No matter what the reason you write for your blog, you need to learn how to craft each post to have the greatest impact on your reader.

Your readers are granting you their valuable attention, after all.

How storytelling applies to blogging

In an effort to expand my skills as a blogger, I started reading about the power of storytelling.

Storytelling is an age old tradition that is as natural to human beings as breathing. That’s how we communicate, sell, and relate to each other. The go-to book for understanding the power of story is Robert McKee’s book “Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting“. While the book is about screenplays, it hit me that there was a parallel between scenes in a movie and blog posts.

Here’s the breakdown: your blog is like a movie, while each blog post is a scene in that movie.

Your blog’s theme and genre

Whether you think of it in these terms or not, your blog has a theme. The same goes for movies: documentaries, dramas, horror flicks, love stories, and comedies.

You might think your blog is special and that it cannot be classified within a genre. That would mean you’ve got an “art blog,” kind of like how art films are hard to classify, but make up a genre of their own. If you haven’t articulated your blog’s theme for yourself or your readers, maybe it’s time to write a blog post about it.

Or just a short blurb that you can add to your about page. This will come in handy for the next part: writing to affect change in your reader.

Each blog post should affect change

One of the most fundamental abilities you can develop as a blogger is knowing when to hit publish, and when to recognize a subpar piece of writing. At the beginning of your blogging career you might publish everything you write, but eventually you will start to get a feel for what resonates with your readers.

Here’s a shortcut that I gleaned from Robert Mckee’s book, referring to a scene in a movie: you should only include a scene if it changes the character(s) from one state to another.

Scenes that are pivotal are the only ones that make it to the final cut.

Pivoting a character’s emotions, opinions, or outlook is what furthers the story. The same is true of pivotal blog posts, furthering the overall story of your blog.

What a single blog post can achieve

Just like each scene in a movie is relatively short and to the point, so should your blog posts be. You shouldn’t attempt to change someone’s entire life in one blog post. That’s why you’ve got a subscribe button, and ongoing content, isn’t it?

However, you can achieve a lot in a single blog post. Here are some possibilities…

  • Take your reader from confused to educated.
  • Take your reader from bored to entertained.
  • Take your reader from apathetic to emotionally engaged.
  • Take your reader from reluctant to convinced, by showing results.
  • Take your reader from sadness to happiness.
  • Take your reader from curious to interested.

The possibilities are endless. What you can do with a single blog post will largely depend on the tone and genre of your blog and what you are trying to accomplish.

Pivotal blog posts

Here are a few examples of transformative blog posts that take a reader from one place to another:

Take Away Points

Now that you’ve read some examples of truly pivotal blog posts, it’s time for you to craft your own.

First identify your blog’s overall goal, diection, and genre if you haven’t already done so.

Then take the next blog post you were going to write and design it with a pivot in mind.

After you’ve written your first draft, read it over and identify the starting state and ending state of your reader.

Is he bored? Lethargic? Unenthused?

How does your blog post turn this around? Have him leave your writing laughing, energized, and inspired.

That’s when you’ll know you’re truly creating content that makes an impact on your reader’s life.

Nathalie Lussier’s blog Raw Foods Witch is about eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, while eliminating unhealthy food cravings. Follow her at @NathLussier on Twitter.

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21 Responses to “How to Leave Your Readers Better Than You Found Them”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Glen Allsopp says:

    Hey Nathalie,

    Awesome to see you over here. Great post (have bookmarked to link to) and thanks for the mention!

    - Glen

  2. Bart says:

    You left me better than you found me, Nathalie ;-). I think you nailed it right from the start by saying “Your readers are granting you their valuable attention …”. In other words, they expect to see a change after reading your post. Anyway, you have done just that with this post. Well done. Thanks!

  3. Hilary says:

    Hi Nathalie .. yes – I agree with you Nathalie and Bart above – our readers are giving their valuable time and if I’m not entertained or involved because of the concept and Ineed to learn more .. then I’m off.

    So true what you’ve said – thanks for setting it out so succinctly and giving us great pointers to go by and links to go to ..

    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

  4. Ali Hale says:

    Like Glen says, awesome to see you here, Nathalie! And superb post! I really like the analogy between blog posts and stories (which is how I think of my writing too), and this is a great look at how to be a significant little moment in a reader’s day.

    Thanks!

  5. Awesome post, Nathalie! I read every word of it and really think it will help to make me a better blogger. Thank you! :)

  6. Hi Nathalie, thanx for a great post.

    While I think a lot of people write exhilarating and educational posts unconsciously it’s always great to mention those points, so we are all aware of what a great post should look like. Thanx again!

    Klaus Tol

  7. @Mary & Leo: Thanks for the opportunity to write here, it’s awesome to connect with other bloggers here!

    @Glen: Awesome, I’m glad you liked it. :)

    @Bart: Yay – that was the idea. And yes, your reader’s attention is definitely valuable and should be cherished.

    @Hilary: You’re welcome, I always like to have concrete examples to look to personally. ;)

    @Ali: Ooh it’s interesting to find out that you think of your writing that way too!

    @Positively: You’re welcome, it’s so fun to see you here too. :)

    @Klaus: You’re right, a lot of people write these posts naturally. Sometimes it’s nice to “look under the hood” and see how they do it too. ;)

  8. Fantastic post! I went to Robert McKee’s seminar in NYC a few years ago. He certainly knows story. I love how you apply his advice to blog writing, but would like to remind everyone, it also applies to article writing and editing. Love it! Bookmarked and sent it out to our #scriptchat gang. Thanks!

  9. @Jeanne: Oh wow I think it’d be awesome to learn from Robert McKee first hand, that’s awesome! And it definitely applies to articles and editing of course, thanks for the reminder on that. :)

  10. joylene says:

    Strangely, I feel optimistic about my blog now. I wasn’t sure if I was succeeding or not. But having read this, even I understand I’m offering my reader something good. I’m entertaining and helping and engaging my readers. Nice to know. And silly me for not realizing it before.

  11. DShan says:

    Pieces of this are incredible relevant to the vast sea of personal bloggers out there. I really feel the segment of writers who are growing as bloggers by articulating their daily lives reaches an inflection point at which they have a community of people invested, and a personal life that might stop cooperating with the need for material.

    What the successful ones do is find their voice in that struggle…they find the ways that their storytelling is unique, sustainable, and an enjoyable endeavor. The blogging becomes more about the composition and relationship to an audience/community – commonalities, weird experiences, thoughts, and musings. It’s no longer just a diary…it’s a screenplay, filled with the good stuff.

    It’s a conversation with the reader, and bridging the ‘I write this for myself as a diary’ to ‘my audience has a stake in this’ gap is challenging. These are great tips on how to move forward as a writer.

  12. Nathalie,

    Each blog post can be part of an overall content strategy the blogger has in mind. I think of each post as a milestone,a toll gate, where readers can stop and assess where they are before continuing.

    Good stuff here,

    Alex

  13. @Joylene: I love that you were able to find that here! Yes, you are providing something even if it’s entertainment, help, and engagement, woohoo. :)

    @Dshan: Ooh you really nailed it when bridging the gap between personal online diaries and sharing for the community side of things. I’ve seen bloggers pull this off nicely, and it sounds like you know some too. :)

    @Alex: I like your idea of a toll gate, where they can stop and see how they are doing at some point on their journey. Great metaphor!

  14. Great concept. I’m very familiar with it in writing fiction, and am forever nagging students about making sure a scene rises or falls, but haven’t thought about it in terms of blogging. Makes a lot of sense, thanks.

  15. @Charlotte: I love that this sparked a new way of using a concept you already know and love. Thanks for sharing! :)

  16. Hey, great post! And I read it at a great time too. I just started a blog and was clueless to how people would respond.Thank you!

  17. Well this was a highly useful thing to stumble upon! So many things to apply this to. Thanks for that…

  18. Jack says:

    Just short of six years of blogging and close to ten thousand posts and I still publish almost everything I write. I am a father, son, husband, brother and more.

    My blog reflects my life in all of those capacities. Part of the reason why I publish the posts that I think fall short of the mark is it brings authenticity.

    I like showing the good and the bad. It seems to resonate with the readers too. A big part of becoming a successful blogger is finding your voice and then sharing it with others.

    You have some solid advice in this post,I liked it. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  19. mk akan says:

    i enjoy stories and always try to add stories to my blog post.it connects you emotionally to the readers.this really works.
    great post

  20. Vincent says:

    Please don’t use my images without giving me credit, even if you have edited it. It’s simple, just link instead:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/vonschnauzer/3672814850/