How “Setting” Impacts Your Writing

Robert Rice here again. Hopefully you had an opportunity yesterday to watch your favorite scene from film, TV, or theater. (Any excuse to sit back and enjoy a little entertainment, right?)

Today, we’re diving into the first major step of the process of creating equally compelling copy: understanding your external world.

With all of the iterations of Sherlock Holmes, one of the major elements that sets them apart is, well, the setting. Originally, Sherlock was based in Victorian England – a time vastly different from our own.

If you were cast in that version, you would have done extensive research on the time period to convincingly play a part in it. What was life like in those times? What happened up until that point in history? What were the “current events”?

What was day-to-day life like for a person of Sherlock’s status? How did people like him interact with each other, or with those of different backgrounds? What were their customs?

Finding the answers to these questions allows you to fully embody the time period. This means incorporating fun things like proper accents and mannerisms into your performance. Also, wearing period clothing and using colloquialisms of the time.

In the grander scheme, it means truly becoming a part of that place, fitting in, and delivering a believable performance. So there is no disconnect between you and the place you’re supposed to be.

While you may never have to write copy set in the Victorian era, you still need to ask the right questions to make sure it fits into the industry you’re writing for.

You’d want to know the answers to things like: How many other products are there like it? How do people view products like yours? What current events are relevant to the industry?

The reason for this is an often overlooked factor in copywriting called “sophistication.” This is the measurement of how aware your prospects are about your product, industry, and advertising.

For example, there are countless advertisements about weight-loss supplements. If you write copy saying your great new product will help people lose weight, they will probably roll their eyes. They’ve seen it a million times before.

You would have to dig deep to find a stronger, more compelling angle. And only by understanding your industry would you know what has been done to death, and what could be new and exciting.

A great way to uncover your market’s sophistication is by using Amazon.com to check out products being sold in the industry you write for. For example, if you write copy for coaches, you would research books on coaching. Or, if your dream industry is health and wellness, you could look into books on nutrition.

There you’ll get valuable insight into the climate of the market and how people perceive things.

Your action step for today is to write down five to 10 of the most striking positive and negative reviews for those products. These are easily obtained from 5-star and 1-star reviews.

If you find any particularly shocking or surprising comments, share them with us in the comments below. Reading reviews can be a very entertaining process.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the next step in creating your show-stopping performance. Arguably the most important exercise of all …

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: December 16, 2014

3 Responses to “How “Setting” Impacts Your Writing”

  1. Love the analogy! Copywriters need to be a bit 'Sherlock' too. That's elementary.

    BenM FullbeamCopyDecember 16, 2014 at 12:44 pm

  2. In researching the topic of PTSD on Amazon, I ran across the book, The Body Keeps the Score, by van der Kirk. It had 97 reviews, of which an impressive 96 gave it a five-star rating! The remaining one gave it only one star. After reading a few of the glowing reports, I clicked on that single negative one. The writer admitted that she did not hate the book - she was simply put off by the introduction, and promised to review the book again after she had actually read it! I ordered the book.

    Guest (Roberta Manter)December 17, 2014 at 11:13 pm


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