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A Book Writing Guide for Professional Speakers – Tip #8, The Principle of Antagonism


How do you get readers to engage with your story or idea? The answer lies in how fully you outline your antagonist. Your book can only be as interesting and emotionally compelling as the forces of antagonism make it. By antagonist, I’m not talking Darth Vader or Lex Luthor. I am talking about boosting the antagonistic forces within your story to the point that a reader feels a need to change.

Readers never do any more than they have to, expend any energy they don’t have to, take any risks they don’t have to. If you want readers to change (to buy your products and services, create new habits, or just read your book and recommend it to others), you have to give them a compelling reason to do so.

Antagonism is Everything

Seth Godin, in his 1999 nonfiction bestseller Permission Marketing, does an outstanding job of introducing his antagonist early in the book. On page 25, he gives it a name—“Interruption Marketing.”

Interruption Marketing is the traditional approach to getting consumer attention. It includes junk mail, spam, the flashy ads in People magazine, tacky billboards, all television commercials, and mass advertising in general. As consumers, we do our best to ignore these nagging intrusions, so marketers do all they can to interrupt us with bigger and dumber and trashier advertising messages. This old school approach to marketing is wasteful, time-consuming, and, in many ways insulting. So now we know the bad guy—Interruption Marketing and interruption marketers.

Seth Godin’s good guy, on the other hand, is the primary focus of his book, Permission Marketing. Permission Marketing offers consumers an opportunity to volunteer to be marketed to. By talking only to volunteers, Permission Marketing guarantees that consumers pay more attention to the marketing message. This new approach encourages consumers to participate in a long-term marketing campaign in which they are rewarded in some way for paying attention.

The More Memorable the Antagonist, the More Memorable the Book

The principle of antagonism gives your readers someone or something to hate. That someone or something is the antagonist, and it’s a critical part of your book whether you’re writing about marketing, business process improvement, life balance, or any other area of expertise.

The more powerful and complex the forces of antagonism opposing your idea, the more compelling your solution becomes. Without a thorough understanding of the intellectual, emotional, social, and financial conflicts inherent in traditional marketing, Seth Godin’s notion of Permission Marketing is nothing but a catchy slogan. However, by giving us some background and showing us just how infuriatingly annoying mass advertising can be, Godin has created a solution (Permission Marketing) that not only sounds feasible but is long overdue.

Before You Begin Writing That Next Book

A book is both a product to sell and a tool to help express your ideas. A well-written book can help launch your professional speaking career to the next level. However, before you get started, decide on the bad guy in your story. Don’t pick a weakling. Choose a story antagonist with the willpower to wreak havoc on your reader’s world if nothing is done to stop it. Ensure that your story contains negative forces of such power your solution must be implemented to gain the upper hand. Do that, and you’ll likely create some buzz. Do that, and you’ll most certainly keep readers reading.



Submitted by:

Latham Shinder

Latham Shinder is author of The Graffiti Sculptor and founder of Shinder Consulting, a network of professionals who provide writing, editing, and proposal management services for organizations and individuals. Visit Latham at http://www.15secondbookreviews.com.





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