In the past 20 or so years, blogging has separated itself out as an art form. Uniquely separate from the newspaper articles that they once imitated, blog posts continue to evolve as sites become more interactive and mobile. Attention-grabbing headings, rhetoric, data, social sharing, and media are all essential parts of any popular blog. However, as freelance writers, we should not leave thousands of years of written tradition in the dust. To understand the present, we must understand the past, which is why any writer should study what literature has to offer.
The art of blogging prevents us from using flowery language. Web-based writers will want to avoid excessive adjectives and adverbs, elaborate metaphors, the passive voice, and long, Victorian-style sentences. Blogging is about instant gratification, to some extent. But literature still can offer some guidance on how to tell a good story, which is, deep down, what blogging is still about.
“If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter, it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”
— Anton Chekhov
Literary techniques are not limited to novels and TV shows. Bloggers can — and should — hint at the contents of their article with mysterious headlines or early hints. Foreshadowing is just an older form of the “curiosity gap.”
Conflict and Plot
“After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
— Philip Pullman
Just because you’re writing a blog post doesn’t mean that you can’t tell a story, one with an introduction, conflict, and resolution. Blogs should inherently tell a story, perhaps not through a character, but indirectly. Stories are the lifeblood of blogs, so they should have a similar, but shorter, structure to that of a short story.
“All good writing is swimming underwater and holding your breath.”
— F. Scott Fitzgerald
This technique is essential for multi-post stories, but even in one post, you can leave your readers hanging. Always be conscious of what your readers want, and then you can manipulate that for your own nefarious purposes!
“Poetry creates the myth, the prose writer draws its portrait.”
— Jean-Paul Sartre
Be anecdotal and detailed in your posts, and be sure to include the senses. A food blog post that describes the sensuous flavors of a meal will often be more popular than one that doesn’t, for example. Utilize every sense, not just sight.
“Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”
— Ernest Hemingway
Set the stage for your readers. Allow them to use their imaginations by creating scenarios. Enable them to see places or situations in their minds.
“It is a cliché that most clichés are true, but then, like most clichés, that cliché is untrue.”
— Stephen Fry
Novelists more frequently need to develop their own similes and metaphors. More commonly, bloggers rely on clichés. Don’t! Come up with your own clever witticisms, or, at the very least, leave out common and unnecessary phrases. They don’t add as much to your content as you think.
“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.”
— William Faulkner
It’s OK to get a bit of blood on the page. Authors throughout history had to suffer for their art. They were often looked down upon, unappreciated, and unpaid. They had to be brave and dedicated over the span of years to produce their work. As a blogger, it’s important to take risks and have the freedom to express new thoughts and ideas. It’s important to be a brand, but it’s also important to occasionally branch out.
For a little added inspiration, here’s Neil Gaiman’s advice on how to be a writer.