How to Jolt Your Reader Into
Paying Attention

Jolted

Drama.

Drama jolts a reader into paying attention.

Novels use it. Movies use it. TV uses it.

There’s no reason why your content shouldn’t use it.

And one of the best ways to create drama is to disagree with your headline. (Yes, I said disagree).

So let’s look at an example:

Headline: The Logical Case For Increasing Your Prices

First Paragraph: Let’s do something really stupid: Let’s avoid increasing your prices. Let’s decrease them instead. By a whole 50%

That’s drama. And it’s dramatic because it takes the opposite stance from the headline.

The reason your reader is hooked into the article is because you wrote a powerful headline. Now once you’ve got attention, you can take the reader down the thread of ‘decreasing prices.’

Show him how stupid it is to decrease prices. Make the case. Then yank him back to ‘raising prices’ once again.

And instantly, you’re pulling the reader back and forth, just like they do in the movies. The drama is deliberate. Planned. And the jolts are designed to wake the reader up.

Because when you think about it, most people believe content creation is about mere words. But it’s not.

It’s about flow. And jolts. And drama.

  • Sometimes the article meanders.
  • Sometimes it speeds up.
  • Sometimes it comes to a grinding halt.

These are all elements of drama.

If you see your content as just an article, all you’ll end up with is wimpy, icky, boring stuff. But if you see yourself as a director of a movie, you’ll insert drama.

And what better way to start off the drama than to disagree with your own headline?

About the Author: Sean D’Souza offers a free report on ‘Why Headlines Fail’ when you subscribe to his Psychotactics Newsletter. Check out his blog, too.

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Reader Comments (41)

  1. says

    Sweet idea. Usually when I see articles disagreeing with the headlines, it’s because the author used some “attention grabbing” headline template and put no effort into matching the headline to the article… but I’ll be on the lookout for drama from now on!

  2. says

    Great idea-have used it-but the post gave some very unique twists-my mentor said ‘grab them by the throat with your headlines”-amen. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  3. says

    I always try to open my posts differently. Sometimes with dialogue, sometimes in the middle of action, sometimes with a story or a quote. But there’s no question that an early hook is important.

  4. says

    Great point, but this is a territory that needs careful planning and sincerity of purpose. If your idea is simply to jolt your readers then it may backfire — it may put them off and they may resent you for tricking them into reading what they never intended to read. Instead, express your central point as convincingly as possible; this will help you build trust and respect. But yes, done properly, this is a great way of getting attention.

  5. says

    These are some of the same tips that I have been reading up on problogger.net. You can never get enough of these and many bloggers can benefit by using some of these tips. We all have to remember that visitors will most likely only read the first couple of sentences and maybe not even that if they are not interested by your main headline. So make them want to read your content.

  6. says

    This technique is a kind of like the “bad news” headline but reversed. When the headline uses a negative to get attention and then turn the content into something else. “Drama” in books, films, tv is often dark and negative cos it keeps us hooked…If you can back up the dramatic opening with real substance it makes for great reading for sure.

    Thanks for the great tip
    Glen Crosier
    Brighton, UK

  7. says

    As I am new to to blogging, this tip will greatly help me out. I tend to sound professional all the time and am trying hard to stop and be interesting instead. Just another thing to think about…

  8. says

    I like your suggestion. I had heard a similar comment from Jeff Walker and I actually bought some books on writing drama. It’s quite interesting to learn how to add drama and conflict to marketing material. Look around a coffee shop or bookstore, what are most people reading? Drama, novels and other fiction that totally engrosses them in the story. Most of them can’t put it down until they’re finished. It’s like a magnet and their hands are made of metal.

  9. says

    Compelling headlines are great when you can come up with a good one. I entitled one post “Getting High in Austin” and it attracted a lof attention. It was about all the new high-rise developments in the downtown area, but the headline was one people just had to click.

  10. says

    This sounds like it could be fun, but I’m not sure how many of my clients would go for it.

    I will definitely try it out on my blog though. Thanks for the great idea!

  11. says

    Great post. I think that the headline is the most important part of writing at times. If you’ve got a killer title, then the battle is already half won :) Thanks for the advice!

  12. says

    “The reason your reader is hooked into the article is because you wrote a powerful headline.”

    This is an interesting read and I enjoyed it. However, I was always under the impression that C.B. held the stance that if your material is not in alignment with your headline you lose credibility.

  13. says

    You can’t overdo it either.

    You have to use it sparingly. I read that some of you felt your clients wouldn’t go for it. I’d say that’s a bit presumptuous.

    This isn’t just a factor of writing. It’s a factor of understanding that many readers are inundated with information. And that using specific tactics, and using them sparingly, will indeed get you exceptional results.

  14. says

    I think this may work occasionally but not all the time, depending on the medium. I wouldn’t want to be known as the guy who wrote posts that no one ever knew what was coming.

    But on different types of copywriting, I can see this working. Direct mailing, for example, or maybe email marketing.

  15. says

    Bamboo, the content has to fulfill the promise the headline makes. Sean’s example does that very thing, but first creates drama by taking the reader in the other direction first.

  16. says

    Just for the record (and without seeming boastful), I write between 3-5 articles a day. Even if you consider that there are just 200 working days in a year, that’s a fair bit.

    And that’s not counting any other writing including books and course-material. What I’m trying to get across, is don’t miss the forest for the trees.

  17. says

    Years ago I used to write a column for a now defunct magazine called “Axcess.” The column was called Tek Freak and I would take the opposite side of every tech issue. Example: The V-Chip is bad for our children because they won’t grow up on crappy television like “Dukes of Hazzard.” And yes, parents have to monitor their kids viewing, but guess what, their children are my future too and I don’t want my future raised on Masterpiece Theater.

    Think like you’re on the debate team and you have to argue your point. It’ll be entertaining for the audience and a challenge for you as a writer.

    To read that full article, go here: http://davidspark.com/vchip.html

  18. says

    Well, think about it.
    Most articles are utterly boring.

    Might as well redeem your article with a technique that works. If only some of the time 😉

  19. says

    I want to thank you for all the fantastic advice and suggestions you have in your blog! I have been busy launching a new web site and kept a number of your recent post notifications in my inbox to catch-up on later. I’ve read through several of them this weekend and look forward to putting some to practice. Thank you!

  20. says

    I know grabbing the reader’s attention at the beginning is vitally important. I like the idea of adding drama and conflict but the warning to use it sparingly is, I think, of equal importance.

  21. says

    Great idea-have used it-but the post gave some very unique twists-my mentor said ‘grab them by the throat with your headlines”-amen. Great post! Thanks for sharing!


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