How to Write Like the World’s Greatest Writer
A word after a word after a word is power.
2000 years ago, the rules of storytelling were laid down by a man who was, according to legend, the last person to know everything. He was a philosopher, physician, scientist, and student of Plato.
His name was Aristotle, the greatest storyteller of all times.
People have been remixing the wisdom of Aristotle for more than 2,000 years, and we’re all the better for it. Taking timeless truths, communicating them in the language of the present day, and applying them to new ways of doing things will always be one of the best ways of propagating his wisdom.
In his unfinished work The Poetics, Aristotle had given many valuable tips to help erstwhile authors achieve that celebrated Greek ideal: perfection. These lessons have a timeless fragrance to them and are very much valid in our modern storytelling times also.
Not only are most of these tips applicable to modern fiction, drama, and film, but many of them have even been successfully used by famous immortal authors like Agatha Christie and Ernest Hemingway with resounding success.
And here are some of the rare gems from his fabulous teachings.
Begin with an END in Mind
Knowing where you’re trying to go before you start is crucial to leading an effective life. Aristotle called this teleology, which is the study of matters with their end or purpose in mind.
The same applies to writing as well. Every piece of writing, whether an individual blog or a book should have an end objective in mind. This end objective will be your unique selling proposition and you need to have a clearly-defined big picture perspective of how you’re going to achieve that objective over time.
Each post in some way or the other should be tied to the bigger story and how the readers can benefit something from your expertise, be it learning something from your business acumen or even plain feel-good humor which a reader can associate with your writing style.
Just always remain focused on where you’re trying to end up. Even when the path is hazy, you’ve got to remember where you’re trying to go.
Writing is all about Persuading.
Aristotle nailed the key to persuasion way back in Rhetoric, his detailed attempt to demonstrate that persuasion was a true art, contrary to the assertions of his mentor, Plato. Aristotle said that persuasion involved being able to identify the most compelling naturally-occurring element of any subject.
Once we identify the natural element, in other words, the “turning lever” within any reader, the next step is to use pathos, the ability to connect with the emotions, desires, fears, and passions of the audience. And you certainly don’t accomplish that by focusing on yourself. Your writing is only successful if it invokes a multitude of emotions within the reader.
Thus Connect with the readers at an emotional level and back it up with sound features like great characters, rollicking story and profound message. Your writing is destined to go places.
String in the Features and tell a Captivating Story
Now you have had the readers hooked by the pathos or emotional appeal. The next step is to match the emotions with a captivating story that engages the readers end-to-end. Aristotle has a 4 step process to do the same: -
· Exordium — This is your opening. You’ve caught their interest with your headline, but the opening phrase is where you’ve really got to grab hold the reader’s attention. It might be a shocking statement, an interesting factoid, a famous quote, or a vivid anecdote.
· Narratio — Next you’ve got to show the reader you understand their problems. They need to identify with you, and you with them. In this section, you strike a chord with them.
· Confirmatio — Offer a solution. Use flawless logic and practical illustrations to demonstrate the technique or service you are offering, and give examples featuring people similar to the reader. A problem without a solution is meaningless to the reader.
· Peroratio — Don’t’ forget to expressly state the need to act upon the solution offered now. This is the call to action, the ending which needs to be implanted within the mind of the reader. The ending should stay long after the reader has finished reading your story.
Aristotle’s point is simple. Writing is almost same like SELLING a product. At the end, the deal has to be closed; The Writer(Seller) should convince the Reader(Buyer) to buy(read) his story and remain loyal thereafter.
Bringing it all together
So, what is the best way for modern writers to incorporate Aristotle’s advice?
The most helpful approach would be to get together with your writing group and discuss the above points. Do you see ways in which these steps can be used to help improve your own work? Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, get a copy of The Poetics for yourself and read it.
In this case, I would also recommend starting a discussion group. Aristotle is much easier to read when you have people to talk him over with–and he is well worth the effort.
As Aristotle has rightly said:
To write well, express yourself like the common people, but think like a wise man.”
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