Exercise: Message Massage

Certain chronic questions dog every author, and it behooves you to articulate a fun, quotable, branded response to each that reinforces what is exceptional about you and your work. You should always have a memorable answer on the tip of your tongue.

In his Words that Work, Dr. Frank Luntz posits “Ten Rules of Effective Language” that power a great message. This is only a summary, but covers most of the messaging bases:

  • SIMPLICITY: Short, direct word choices keep your message accessible to a wider audience.
  • BREVITY: Punchy, powerful phrasing grants maximum efficiency and impact.
  • CREDIBILITY: People only want what they believe to be valuable.
  • CONSISTENCY: Steady repetition and reinforcement encourages loyalty.
  • NOVELTY: Audiences get bored if you don’t keep things fresh and surprise them periodically.
  • RHYTHM: The texture and sound of language keep it memorable and persuasive.
  • ASPIRATION: Great messaging allows people to imagine and embrace their improved, potential selves.
  • IMPACT: Clear metaphors and strong images anchor the message in the minds of customers.
  • INQUIRY: Rhetorical questions invite listeners to engage and relate to their own experience.
  • RELEVANCE: Establish context for the listener so they know why they should pay attention.

Using Dr. Luntz’s ten rules, polish your answers to the the following perennial warhorses you’ll answer a thousand times:

  • What’s your book about?  Hint: focus on you book's hook, why they should care, and what emotional experience you can guarantee.
  • Where do you get your ideas?  Hint: convey how your books express your brand and what's amazing, authentic, and memorable about your writing process.
  • What do you love most about being a writer? Hint: Explain why your imagination is worth money and who your readers are. Express gratitude to your fans and explain what makes your work different. Share your joy.
  • How much of [insert title] is biographical? Hint: Convey any personal hook and what makes the book important and powerful to you. Explain how your authentic experience informs your fictional creations.
  • What are you working on now? (aka So…what’s next?) Hint: Share any high concept hook and express what excites and intrigues you about your upcoming project(s). Focus on images and tropes without spoiling the plot.

Once you've laid out the basics, cut to the bone until you’ve stated a few central positions in a way that reflects your work and your voice. Essentially, knowing what works will also help you avoid what doesn’t. Instead of rambling sentences or clichéd ideas or vague, confusing metaphors, you’ll strip away everything that impedes your point.

© 2016 Damon Suede & Heidi Cullinan, All Rights Reserved

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