In this copywriting hotseat John Carlton discloses how to break down a story so you can tell it well.
Copywriting tips: Kevin…what’s the line about a joke…if you have to explain it it is not a joke? Is there a saying or something like that?
Kevin: Yeah, that’s basically it.
John: Here’s why that’s funny
Kevin: Or, if you have to say “you had to be there” at the end of it, you shouldn’t have told the story.
John: Interesting point. In Nevada, Virginia city is a very storied town that I lived in. I won’t go into it, but it is a very old town from the 1800’s. It funded the Civil War for Lincoln because of the gold strike, or the gold and silver strike up there. It was the birth of the hippie movement in San Francisco. A lot of stuff.
Audience: And it’s haunted
John: It’s haunted. I lived up there for a while. It’s great. There was this woman…There’s a famous bar up there called the Red Dog Saloon where Janis Joplin and Quick Silver and all those famous bands got their start. And it became what was known as the “Summer of Love” in San Francisco.
A lot of people are interested in this. Especially my generation. So this woman, Mary Wurtz…her father was involved in this. So she decided to do this documentary. There’s one out there…it’s called the “Tale of the Red Dog”, or “The Red Dog Saloon” I think is the name of the actual…
But, the thing is, I saw the early takes of that. She found guys who were there, and she interviewed them. I got to see early takes as she did. It was a travesty. These guys would go “Oh, God…it was like…oh, man…”. And they’d go on for a half an hour. Then they’d stop, and sometimes say “You had to be there”.
And, my point, as a writer, is that no, you didn’t. You have to learn to tell the freakin’ story. You know. Sit down. Think about what it was…break it down. That is why we talked about it yesterday. Taking what seems like a complex or possibly incoherent thing…a block of knowledge, an idea, a concept or an existing business, and break it down into elements that you can deal with. Each thing, when you start doing that…
That’s what a good copywriter does…that’s what a good consultant does…is break it down into manageable chunks. Almost like taking a…what’s the old saying…You can never eat anything bigger than your head? You know. But, if you break it down it’s no longer bigger than your head. That’s what business often is. So…
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