I’ve been a murder mystery reader ever since I could hold a book. I’ve always been able to escape whatever’s going on by disappearing into a good book. Even when I was writing my doctoral dissertation or my first book, I made it to the library to keep up with my favorites. It’s the closest thing I’ve got to true addiction.
We mystery fans tend to be suspicious by nature.
We want the author to play fair. We hate when we have to say, “That story couldn’t happen because …” We’re willing to pretend that some ordinary people keep stumbling over dead bodies, but not much else.
Have you ever watched a movie or television show and noticed some detail was simply impossible?
Cut to a film festival, where several of us audience members wanted to love a film by cool new indie producers…until they showed an airline captain, in full uniform and cap, seated at a restaurant drinking a glass of wine.
That would never, ever happen. Airlines have strict rules. No drinking in uniform, even off duty. Some airlines won’t even allow uniformed pilots to enter bars in uniform; experienced pilots would err on the side of caution. This pilot most likely carries a dark sweater to wear over his shirt, so he’d be just an ordinary guy in a dark sweater and navy trousers. He’d for sure leave his jacket and cap at home.
Drinking in uniform? He’d be fired on the spot … and why risk losing a job where you fly two round trips a week and call that working?
I was jerked out of my involvement with an otherwise enjoyable film.
Later I asked a pilot to verify that my information was accurate (it was) and frankly that’s all I remember about the film.
Then there was the TV show Northern Exposure. Fun to watch but an SMH to anyone who’s ever lived in Alaska. Northern lights in mid-summer? It’s daylight 24/7 and you wouldn’t see them. Public health docs mooning about their love lives? They’re too busy delivering babies in the middle of nowhere.
When your audience goes into a fact-checking mode, you open the fourth wall.
You’ve probably heard the term “fourth wall” to describe the invisible barrier between audience and stage — the wall that keeps the illusion alive. Once these questions arise, the fourth wall comes down. The magic stops. We realize we’re staring at a group of ordinary people, wearing costumes on a stage.
When we’re watching movies or plays, we switch from right to left brain as soon as the fourth wall comes down. We’re no longer caught up in the story. We’re analyzing it.
Copywriting can open the fourth wall, too.
During a marketing webinar, the presenter put up a screenshot of a Udemy course.
“Look at this,” he enthused. “900 people took this course and it’s listed at $47. So he’s made over $40,000 from just this one course.”
There’s just one problem. You can’t do the math that way. Many people who sign up for Udemy courses will pay a fraction of the published price, so the seller’s earnings will almost certainly be less than advertised.
This marketer lost all credibility for me and, I’m sure, for anyone who’d ever published on Udemy. Either he didn’t do the research or he was willing to go for the fake. Bad news either way.
Of course, mistakes can happen to anyone, even if you’ve got a big budget and a room of fact-checkers to screen your work before you go public.
You’re most likely to lose your audience when making claims about what your program will do.
Whether you’re writing a novel or a newsletter, stay with what you know. For a launch or book, when you’ve got a lot at stake, get multiple readers…and at least one skeptical pre-viewer, someone who will say, “How did you know this?” or even, “There’s absolutely no way…”
You can keep audiences engaged by sharing plausible stories.
Do you promise to help people organize their closets?
Tell your audience about the client who had always struggled with keeping track of their wardrobe…maybe to the point where they bought 3 white sweaters.
Now they’ve got a straightforward system that doesn’t require complicated equipment but helps them stay on top of things. Since many people have been through countless organizing systems, you’ll need to explain why yours worked when the others didn’t.
Do you promise to help clients manage their money and accomplish their financial goals?
Share a story of someone who got out of debt, built their credit rating, and bought a beautiful new home, all with your help. But keep it real. Nobody does this overnight.
Are you promoting a membership or subscription program?
When you say, “You just need to get 85 people to pay you $97,” your audience will do the math. They know it is very, very hard to get even ten people to sign up for a monthly $97 program. Not impossible, but not a cakewalk.
You face extra challenges when you address a knowledgeable audience.
When it comes to movies and plays, audiences come from all walks of life. Most people don’t realize, for instance, that pilots follow strict rules about drinking. Most people haven’t been to Alaska
But when you’re talking to an experienced audience, your risk goes up exponentially. If you’re teaching a course on course creation, many of your audience will have tried to create their own courses. They may have failed completely. They may have done well and want to do even better.
When readers feel involved, they’ll see themselves in your story. They won’t stop to ask, “Can that be real?”
You take your readers to the edge of the cliff. Now you’ve got to get them down to the ground, safely. They won’t believe a magic parachute.
But they’ll believe a five-day course to rappel your way down the mountain…if you’ve made it clear that you’re only talking to people with a high level of fitness and totally lacking in fear of heights.
For my own program on course creation: Click here to get started
My kindle book on Amazon shows how to use stories to support your business purpose. Click here.