“The night is mine, my own time, to do with as I will, as long as I am quiet. As long as I don’t move. As long as I lie still.”
- From the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
“Show, don’t tell”, is a literary technique used to build scenarios and involve your audience. You don’t simply tell your audience about a situation, you show them. You let them experience it through your writing. Great authors like Atwood do this in their work so effortlessly that you probably never even notice it.
Take the example above from the Handmaid’s Tale. Trapped inside a dystopian future, the protagonist describes how she feels in her moment of freedom. Atwood never tells us how oppressed Offred is; instead she described how she revels in her one moment of perceived liberty. She shows us how she has accepted her oppression and internalised it to such an extent that now, even thinking her own thoughts while lying motionless in bed is considered an act of freedom. In this way, we feel the oppression of the situation and don’t need to be hit over the head with laborious exposition.
This technique works in copywriting as well, since successful copywriting is simply good storytelling. Your copy needs to create a scenario and show your readers how your products, service or whatever will improve their life (or rather how their life will be improved with your product).
You don’t need to tell your customers how comfy the first class seats are; instead you should help them to imagine the relaxing night’s sleep they get as they travel, and the wonderful feeling of waking up relaxed and ready to go when they touch down.
To keep writing you need to keep reading and reading and reading.
“A writer who writes more than he reads is an amateur”
- Harlan Ellison