How to Make Your Writing Captivating with One Simple Technique
A secret strategy of pro copywriters
Have you ever become so engrossed in a TV show that you spend hours binge-watching the episodes? (My weakness is British murder mysteries.)
Maybe your friends told you it was an amazing show that you absolutely had to see. So when you finally have free time on a Saturday evening, you decide to put on the first episode.
At first, you’re leaning back in your chair and enjoying the show, but you have one eye on your phone as you scroll through social media. (Yes, I’m guilty of this.)
And then: Bam! The unexpected happens.
A plot twist changes everything.
You put your phone away, and you’re now on the edge of your seat.
Before you know it, you’ve finished episode five. It’s late into the night, but you can’t tear yourself away from the screen.
You have to find out what’s going to happen next.
Is your favorite character really going to get killed off? How will the screenwriters tie up all those loose ends?
Okay, maybe you’ve never binge-watched a TV show, but perhaps it’s happened to you with a good book.
The story pulls you in. Even though you keep telling yourself, “Just one more chapter,” you can’t put the book down.
It’s like the author’s put a spell on you.
Imagine if you could captivate your readers in the same way.
You capture their interest so completely that they read from the first sentence to the last without their minds ever beginning to wander.
In today’s post, I’m going to show you how to do just that with a copywriting technique called “seeds of curiosity”.
No matter whether you’re writing a blog post, an email, a sales page, or a story, this technique will help you keep your readers glued to the page.
Read on to discover exactly how you can use it in your writing to mimic the spellbinding quality of your favorite books and TV shows.
What are seeds of curiosity?
Legendary adman Joseph Sugarman coined the term “seeds of curiosity” in his book Advertising Secrets of the Written Word.*
Sugarman explained that good writing is like a slippery slide:
As you start to slide down and build momentum, you try holding onto the sides to stop, but you can’t stop. You continue to slide down the slide despite all your efforts to prevent your descent. This is the way your copy must flow.
The headline must be so powerful and compelling that you must read the subheadline, and the subheadline must be so powerful that you are compelled to read the first sentence, and the first sentence must be so easy to read and so compelling that you must read the next sentence and so on, straight through to the end of the copy.
Wow, that does sound like quite a challenge, doesn’t it? Easier said than done, right?
Thankfully, Sugarman gives us the super easy-to-use seeds of curiosity technique that will help us make our slides much more slippery.
At the end of a paragraph, I will often put a very short sentence that offers the reader some reason to read the next paragraph. I use sentences such as:
But there’s more.
So read on.
But I didn’t stop there.
Let me explain.
Now here comes the good part.
These seeds of curiosity cause you to subconsciously continue reading even though you might be at a point in the copy where the copy slows down.
Sugarman doesn’t explain why he calls this technique seeds of curiosity. Maybe because you’re planting curiosity in the reader’s mind or maybe because you’re enticing them to read further like you entice a bird with seeds.
Other copywriters refer to this technique as “bucket brigades”. Before modern fire engines and hoses, people would put out fires by filling up a bucket of water and passing it down a line. They were called bucket brigades.
Essentially, they kept the bucket of water moving all the way down the line just as these transition sentences keep your reader moving all the way to the end of your copy.
Sugarman points out that this technique is used a lot on TV.
For example, before a news show cuts to a commercial, the host will often tease an upcoming story and tell you to stay tuned to find out more. Your curiosity is piqued so you suffer through the commercials.
And that’s what those captivating books and TV shows do too. A chapter or an episode ends without fully satisfying your curiosity so you have to keep reading or watching.
Now here comes the good part. (See what I did there?)
I’m going to show you several easy ways that you can use seeds of curiosity in your writing right now.
1. Ask a question.
When your readers see a question, their brain is eager to discover the answer, and so they keep reading.
Here are some examples:
- What’s the bottom line?
- Want to know the best part?
- What does this mean for you?
- So what’s the point?
- Can I be completely honest with you?
You can also use seeds of curiosity when answering a question:
- Yes, you’re right. Here’s why.
- No, that’s wrong. Here’s why.
- The correct answer might surprise you.
- Here’s a clue.
2. Create an open loop by holding back information.
Mention a benefit or payoff you are going to reveal later on in your piece. The reader has to keep reading in order to get to the punch line.
Of course, always make sure that you close the loop or your readers will be very angry with you. (Just like you get angry when a TV show doesn’t bother to resolve a supporting character’s predicament. Ugh, I hate that.)
Here are several examples:
- I’ll explain how to do this in a minute.
- Read on to find out what I discovered.
- You’ll never believe what happened next.
- I’m going to share a secret with you.
- More about that later.
- Don’t worry. There’s a solution.
You can also tease that there’s danger ahead. Our brains have a greater sensitivity to negative news rather than positive news. So signaling a problem will catch your readers’ attention:
- A word of caution.
- But first, beware.
- But there’s a catch.
- It just gets worse.
3. Simplify a difficult concept.
When writing about a technical or complex topic, it’s easy to fall into the trap of crafting dry paragraphs. Technical terms often bore readers to tears or worse confuse them.
Use seeds of curiosity to make sure you don’t lose their attention (these seeds can also be an excellent way to transition into an example):
- Stay with me. This gets interesting.
- Let me explain.
- Here’s what that means in layman’s terms.
- Here’s an example.
- Here’s another way to think about it.
- Picture it this way.
4. Get into readers’ heads.
You can use seeds of curiosity to speak directly to your readers. This is a fantastic method to use on sales pages to anticipate objections a person might raise about your product or service.
Here are examples:
- It’s easier than you think.
- You might be wondering…
- Let me guess.
- I know what you’re thinking.
- But why should you trust me?
You can also use seeds of curiosity to show empathy with your readers and transition into your personal story:
- I’ve been there too.
- I know what that feels like.
- Maybe you’re like me.
5. Build suspense in a story.
Stories are a fantastic way to capture the interest of readers. (I share more about storytelling here and here.) But, of course, a boring story is going to put your readers to sleep, not convince them to keep reading.
Use seeds of curiosity to add suspense and make your stories compelling:
- Then it hit me.
- I couldn’t believe my eyes.
- You won’t believe what he told me.
- I was soon to find out.
- That’s when everything spiraled out of control.
- But something was wrong.
- It gets better.
When you sprinkle your writing with seeds of curiosity, you not only grab the attention of your readers, but you also make your writing more enjoyable to read.
They add a touch of suspense that quickens the pace of your writing and leads your readers along just as if you were holding their hand.
But be careful not to sprinkle your writing too liberally with seeds of curiosity. You’ll end up with an overgrown garden rather than a beautifully planted one.
Too many short sentences will disrupt the rhythm of your writing, just like too many long ones. The best method is to read your writing slowly and look for natural places to add a transition.
Is there a place that’s a bit boring? Where the pace of your writing slows? Where you could add a bit of tension?
Use the example seeds of curiosity in this blog post as inspiration. You can copy them or come up with your own that fit naturally into the flow of your paragraphs.
Your reader will slide all the way to the bottom of your piece and thank you for the thrilling ride.
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Nicole Bianchi is a writer, copywriter, and storyteller at nicolebianchi.com. By day, she works with business owners and creatives to help them clarify their websites’ messaging and craft compelling words that resonate with their audience. By night, you’ll probably find her writing a story or reading a good book.
This article originally appeared on nicolebianchi.com
*This post contains affiliate links. Nicole Bianchi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.