Make your writing more interesting — we’ve heard it time and time again. Problem is, nobody really tells us how that’s supposed to work. You know, what exactly should we do to make our writing interesting?
Why Be Interesting?
When you write in an interesting manner, people don’t just read your piece from end to end, they seek out your past work and look forward to future material from you. Truth is, there just aren’t enough interesting content to go around, which is why producing one actually feels special.
Some things command attention. Some things don’t. If you want your work to be more interesting, try to bring more of the former and less of the latter into your writing. Pay attention to the things you read that manage to steal your attention and hold it — those are the things you will want to integrate into your content.
What are some of these things?
1. Keep it fresh
Whether your point is totally right or totally wrong, it’s the freshness of your take on the subject that makes it interesting. If you’re just parroting views that have already been expressed many times before, then it doesn’t matter that you’re right — you’re not really adding anything new to the conversation.
You can be absolutely wrong but still be very interesting. As long as you’re not making points that are so inane anyone can immediately dismiss it with the simplest of logic, being wrong won’t hurt your cause if you’re presenting something that’s new to your readers.
2. Be better in at least one aspect
Don’t just phone it in. Instead, work towards doing things better in at least one aspect. Have a stronger argument than everything else written in the past, be funnier than everything that’s been done, express your points in a more creative manner and so on. Basically, be outstanding in one area even if you slack in a couple others, instead of being average in every aspect of the work.
When you are exceptional in one specific facet, it gives readers something to be impressed about. Contrast that to a piece that’s no better or worse than anything else out there, which people will just lump in with everything else that reads the same way.
3. Say what others can’t
As a writer, it’s not uncommon to take for granted just how valuable your position is, especially if you write for a platform with a large audience like a popular blog or a magazine. Many people just don’t have the same privilege that you do, either because they can’t express themselves as well on paper or they don’t have the same platform you do. Saying the things people want to be able to say themselves allow people to live vicariously through your work, making it very interesting to them.
4. Do something unexpected
People like to guess — that’s how we make ourselves feel smart when we consume content from others. And when we guess correctly, we feel validated. When we guess wrong, though, that’s when our attention gets piqued. So fill your writing with things people won’t expect, such as surprising points, unorthodox arguments and unusual illustrations.
5. Walk the talk
Too many people write without living through what they write about. It is rare to find true stories where the writer is also the protagonist, even rarer when the star of the story is doing something really valuable with their time. What’s more interesting to read than an interesting person writing about his interesting life?
6. Show decisiveness
It’s irritating enough being around indecisive people. Having to read an article where the writer can’t seem to decide where they stand is just torture readers won’t inflict on themselves. Take a specific position on every issue you talk about — that’s what readers appreciate.
7. Be what they need
Sometimes, the most interesting article is just one that addresses exactly what a reader is looking for. If you run a blog or a magazine, find out what your readers want to know and, like the perfect drug, give it to them. Sure, this technique can be shallow (e.g. all those “lose weight in 15 days” posts on many health blogs), but you can’t deny their effectiveness.
8. Build a character
Create a writing persona, one with a well-defined character with specific traits and beliefs. Then, filter your writing through those traits and beliefs, the same way an actor will filter his acting through the character he portrays.
Characters work because it gives people someone concrete to identify. Someone whose strengths they can recognize and whose flaws they can rile against. It also makes it easier to predict your stance on various issues, which then makes it easier for you to surprise them.
Word of caution: when you write in a character’s point of view, people expect you to stay in character. If you veer away from that, you must let them know why, either explicitly (by explaining) or implicitly (by giving clues so they can deduct your reasons for doing so).
9. Tell a good story
This is time-worn advice that still holds true to this day. There just aren’t enough good storytellers out there. And while we now satiate our hunger for stories with TV and movies, articles that tell gripping stories like a movie will still manage to reel people in.
Even if you write dry prose like tutorials and product spotlights, storytelling can still come in handy when you’re illustrating points and giving examples. Basically, if you can weave a good story, you can make any piece of writing a heck of a lot easier to get into.
10. Avoid being clever
Clever people think being clever makes them cool. It doesn’t. For the most part, it makes them painfully irritating. Being clever is the antithesis to being interesting. Unless your audience consists of 13 year olds who are naïve to the world and easily impressed, being clever will never work. When writing funny, clever might be appropriate, but you need to pick your spots (see below).
11. Stir the pot
Or rock the boat. Or be an irreverent prick. Basically, just do stuff that can infuriate and offend. If you want to do this ironically, then “being clever” might work. Pick up one of those half-humor, half-nonfiction books by half-celebrities — a lot of them use this formula. Going this route creates interest by being a controversial figure and it works very well. Just be prepared for the guaranteed blowback from folks you offend, though.