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Good headline, great design, clever copy and a bold logo make for an engaging advertisement.

Reading is not a passive form of entertainment like watching television or movies. To get people to read your story, you have to connect with them on a number of levels. In marketing, we talk about engaging the customer.

Engagement can come from a variety of sources: a catchy headline, a beautiful picture, clever copy, or a memorable logo. Chances are, when a consumer is engaged by an ad it’s the result of several things working together.

Writing a creative piece — whether it’s a short story or a novel — challenges the writer to engage readers using only words. And, as in marketing, it’s not just one thing that engages readers.

It’s how well everything works together.

Here are some of the tools I use to engage readers:


Someone once told me that good dialogue isn’t conversation; it’s conversational highlights. Don’t let your characters get bogged down in the mundane stuff, unless you’re intentionally trying to convey a certain mood. Keep the conversation moving by hitting the headlines.


Unless you’re writing a graphic novel, you’re probably not going to have pictures with your story. So you need to paint a picture with your words. Some writers excel at this. Others think description is a substitute for good story. I use description sparingly, only when it’s necessary to set the scene for what’s happening.


In an ad, there’s not much time for plot. Copy must be short and sweet. In a novel or short story, you have to be just as judicious with the words you use. Without a good plot, you can’t sell your story. You need to connect with your reader and draw them in to your world. And in the end, you need them to believe what you’re selling is real.


The voice and tone of your writing is essential to engaging readers. Be genuine without being ordinary. Be unique without being pretentious. The key is to keep writing until you find a voice and style that you are comfortable with and sets you apart. This is your brand logo, so make it stand out. More importantly, keep your voice consistent across your different work so readers will know what to expect from you.

With these tools, you can write engaging stories and novels. The key is to keep writing, continue honing your craft, and don’t be afraid to be different.

Kevin Wohler is a copywriter and novelist living in Lawrence, Kansas. During the day, he works at a digital marketing agency in the Kansas City area. When time remains, he likes to tell stories of the weird and bizarre. And sometimes, he writes them down for others to read.

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