Why Content Marketers Should Write Fiction

writing books Why Content Marketers Should Write Fiction

When you ask yourself why someone like me who dislikes the term Content Marketing has used it in a headline you can answer the question with a very simple explanation.

I see an SEO benefit in using it in my posts and no significant upside in constantly trying to convince others to use a better term like storytelling.

However when people ask me to explain what content marketing is I always tell them our job is to act as a professional storyteller for whatever brand/product/service/company or person we are representing.

Why Content Marketers Should Write Fiction

If the professional goal of a content marketer is to tell a convincing story about why a business or consumer should purchase a particular product or service one of the best things they can do is work on their craft which is why it makes sense to write fiction.

The rules of storytelling for content marketers and fiction writers are similar in they both require a beginning, middle and end. However the beauty of fiction lies in the freedom to stretch your skills and not limit yourself to reality.

You can say your hair care product restores a full head of hair and exudes pheromones that are more effective than Love Potion Number 9 without fear of backlash from the FTC or consumers.

But if you ask me it is much more fun to simply let go and just write.

Go tell a story about something totally different. It is part of why I have a separate blog that is dedicated to fiction.

Two Sample Stories

And yes, I am going to share two short stories I have written. It is your choice to read them or skip ahead to them comments where I would love to have a discussion about your thoughts on whether you agree or disagree about the value of content marketers writing fiction.

Plenty of Time

I could hear the echo of my father’s voice inside my head, “Boys don’t ever hit girls.”

He ignored my protests and told me he didn’t care what my sister had done. It didn’t matter if she hit me first or what she used. I was a boy. We weren’t allowed to fight back that way.

I told him again it wasn’t fair and he shrugged his shoulders at me. “We are bigger and stronger. Use your words to settle things. They will.”

He was right and so was I. Thirty-seven years ago they didn’t fight fair and they still don’t now.

I suppose the big difference between then and now is that it was much easier as a young boy to look at them as “annoying people” whose sole purpose was to bother boys.

Puberty changed all that. Those “annoying people” cast a magic spell on me and suddenly I went from not noticing any of them to having trouble focusing in school.

Hormonal overdrive and young love kept me from recognizing the kind of trouble that lack of focus could get you into.

But I found out.

Her name was Tammy. She was a tall blonde with bright green eyes and an electric smile. At 14 she was two or three inches taller than I was and quick to lord it over me.

She spent our freshman year of high school doing her best to tease and torment me. I tried to give it back to her and almost got my head taken off.

I don’t remember exactly what I said but I remember she was angry. When I told her she was acting like my sister she lost it. She stopped talking to me. When we passed each other in the halls she just looked through me, it was like I didn’t exist.

You would think that I would have appreciated the respite from the teasing and the incessant comments about my height, but I didn’t.

We didn’t speak again until November of the following year and to this day I can’t tell you if she even noticed, but I did.

Her refusal to speak made me so angry that I walked over to her. “You aren’t as special as you think you are!”

She just laughed, “look who finally grew.”

Until she mentioned it I hadn’t noticed that I was finally taller than she was.

I wanted to yell at her again but that laughter and the smile that accompanied it took the fight right out of me.

We went on our first date two weeks later and three months after that we lost our virginity in her aunt’s pool house.

It was young love and a healthy dose of young lust.

Her father almost put the fear of god into us. He came home early one day and surprised us.

We heard him and I tried to jump out of bed, but Tammy was fearless. She told me to relax and said there was plenty of time.

That became our line and our little joke. Life was filled with plenty of time and much laughter.

When it came time to go to college we ended up attending different universities. Neither one of us was worried about our relationship. We thought it was strong enough to survive anything, but we were wrong.

I don’t know when she slept with him or how many times she did but I know it happened. I wasn’t blameless either.

The girl I hooked up with was just as tall as Tammy and had those long legs that I loved, except she was a brunette with dark eyes. The moment I kissed her I knew that things had to go farther and that something else was dying, but hormones don’t care about relationships.

Within six months or so we had both acknowledged that it was time to go our separate ways.

It was painful but also somewhat exhilarating. Tammy and I had done almost everything a couple could do together and I was excited to be with other women.

That 18 year-old boy felt like a kid in a candy shop and for a while I really enjoyed it, but I noticed very quickly that these girls didn’t respond like Tammy did.

She would do anything and they wouldn’t. Hindsight makes it easy to recognize that love was the difference but that kid didn’t know it.

By that time Tammy and I rarely spoke and if we did we usually found ourselves fighting but it wasn’t like those days in high school.

Eventually we just stopped talking.

Five years passed and then I ran into her at a New Year’s Eve party. At midnight we kissed and it was like no time had passed.

Thirty-five minutes later we walked into my apartment and stayed there for three days.

Two days later she left for a two year Peace Corps assignment in Africa. When she kissed me goodbye she said she loved me, laughed and told me not to worry because there was plenty of time.

She never wrote me.

Twenty-five years passed and the silence continued. We were just a memory.

Last week there was a knock at the door and I saw a beautiful blonde standing on my porch. It was like being transported in time, there was my Tammy, except it wasn’t.

She said her name was Heather and asked to come inside.

“My mom said if something happened to her I should find you. Her name was Tammy and I think you might be my dad.”

“What do you mean her name was Tammy?”

Her eyes filled with tears and so did mine. I guess we never did have plenty of time.

And our second story is:

The Beginning Of The End

I was almost 25 when I left the city of my birth. It was time to go, time to move on and get away. There were new experiences to be had and the pain of what I had once been, what I had once had was too much. Everywhere I looked there were signs of the glory and the fall.

For most of my life I had been a scrapper, never afraid to fight, never willing to give up and not smart enough to get out. It was a self imposed punishment for sins that I had committed but was unwilling to discuss.

It is not much of a description, not very colorful at all. In fact it is rather ordinary, but that is ok, I am ordinary and I prefer it that way. If you stuck me in a crowd full of people you would be hard pressed to pick me out. It was like that in school, never did or said much in class. No need to draw attention to myself I did what I needed to do to get through and nothing more.

And for the longest time that had been enough, an average, nondescript existence. It suited me fine to be a guy who punched a time clock. But sometimes even the average man find himself in a situation that is beyond his control,a time in which he becomes something more than he has been.

But the question is not what he does to elevate himself but how he handles the elevation.

It was Friday night and I had just finished my shift at the plant. There was no rush to get home because there was no one to get home to, no wife, no family, no girlfriend, not even a dog. Just an empty house that was sparsely furnished.

Friday nights were not much different than any other night of the week. I’d go home, pop open a can of beer and stare blankly at the television screen content to let my brain turn to mush.

On this particular night I decided to stop at an ATM. I wanted to order a pizza and I had nothing but the spare change from the last time I had visited the liquor store. It wasn’t enough to buy a pack of gum, so I was forced to go to the bank.

There were two people ahead of me in line, a man and a woman and behind me there were a couple of teenage boys.

I didn’t see him approach. I didn’t notice anything about him including his presence until he was standing in front of us, waving a gun and shouting for our wallets. I have a bad habit of giggling when I am nervous. I don’t like being the center of attention and now was certainly a bad time to laugh, but laugh I did.

5’8 or so and about a buck twenty sopping wet with a bad haircut and a Judas Priest shirt, that is all he was, oh and he had a big gun and an even bigger attitude. He grabbed my collar and asked me what was so funny. Before I could answer he had grabbed the woman in front of me.

She cried as he pulled her in front of him and asked me if I thought that this was funny. I choked back a snigger and told him that it wasn’t. He told me that if I so much as smiled he would kill her. I wiped the smile off of my face.

It was the wrong thing to do, but I didn’t know it. The jackass cuffed me in the side of the head and laughed. It infuriated me, brought back memories of years of being teased and tortured by my someone who had been like an older brother to me. So I just reacted. I kicked him in the balls and smacked him in the head.

In the movies the gun falls and the hero (there has to be a hero) grabs it. Not here, not in my world. In my world when I slap him there is a flash of light and a loud noise. I am splashed with something, but it feels like hours before I realize that he just shot the woman, and that he did it involuntarily. The wetness I feel on my face is her blood.

I stand there in shock, numb and not really aware anymore of what is happening. The guy she had been with is beating the crap out of the jackass, the Judas Priest shirt is stained now, but it is with his blood.

There is a cop speaking to me, but I don’t answer. The real hero is lying, telling the officer that I saved everyone’s life, that if I hadn’t hit him the guy would have killed us all.

I didn’t hit him, I hit Georgie. It was Georgie I saw in front of me. It was Georgie taunting me, I just snapped and reacted. But I guess that somewhere inside I began to hear and to believe that I had been the hero, that when the bell rang I had come out swinging.

And that was really the beginning of the end.

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  • http://www.slymarketing.com Jens P. Berget

    True Jack. Marketing is about storytelling, and it’s about making things personal and believable. I believe it’s hard to create great stories without adding some fiction to them. I especially enjoy Seth Godin’s Alle Marketers are Liars, it tells a great story of how marketers should think when they create stories.

    Btw, I might be in Los Angeles in April. It would be awesome if we could meet.

    • http://www.thejackb.com Jack

      Hi Jens,

      We are definitely on the same page here. The question to me lies in how you go about adding the “fiction” and whether you let the readers know about it.

      Would love to meet in person. I am not in LA now, but I will be there in April, just a question of dates. Email me.

  • Leonard Creel

    This is a great idea and one I’ve been thinking about myself. I noticed that you write your fiction from the first person which I find interesting. You mentioned that you have a blog dedicated to ficition. Does that work with your marketing?

    • http://www.thejackb.com Jack

      Hi Leonard,

      It depends on the product/service. I do like using first person so I suppose when possible it is what I gravitate towards.

  • http://stanfaryna.wordpress.com Stan Faryna

    I couldn’t agree more with you, Jack.

    One can’t be a marketer, do marketing, or create marketing content if…

    1. They can’t write or tell good stories

    There is no better communication form than the human story.

    2. They were never enchanted with three or more brands for five or more years (each).

    If you never gave your heart and loyalty to a brand, you will never know what brand is.

    3. They lack self-awareness, self-understanding and a certain compassion for others

    The road traveled back and forth between the head and heart speaks and teaches much.

    • http://www.thejackb.com Jack

      I sometimes wonder about two and three as they relate to some brands because the messaging always seems to be lifeless.