Upping The Stakes

When “Tim” invested in our fund he not only generated a 6.2% return for his investors but he slept better than he had in seven years on the job. His doctor of fourteen years told him that his blood pressure and stress levels were the lowest he’d seen for as long as he was a patient of his.

Our [name] investment strategy truly hedges against rollercoaster like swings in returns. You won’t make 20% in a year but you’ll never lose more than 1.7% in a year, even if the market crashes.

While you may not find yourself on the cover of Forbes magazine, you won’t find yourself in a conference with the Chairman or regulators asking you to explain yourself.

Upping The Stakes

That crude, made up story is an example of upping the stakes. Promising kick-ass returns is one thing. Anyone can do that.

When I wrote about how Tim’s health had improved after investing in our fund I never specifically stated it was because of our investment strategy. I left it up to you the reader to connect the dots.

Also, I never made a claim to the reader that their health would also improve. It was more of a side-story about a peer who got these great results. Readers are smart enough to think: “well, if he got these nice ancillary results then maybe I could too.”

Here’s Where Everyone Fails

You don’t need to explicitly make the connection. That only ruins the effect. You want to lead the audience down the path but let them draw their own conclusion. It gives your audience more pleasure to figure it out.

Screenwriters do this all the time. You’re watching a dramatic t.v. show and all of the sudden a character dies. Now you realize that the remaining characters are in a life or death situation. The stakes are upped.

As writers we can and should do the same thing, sparingly. We do need to consider that we’re not only entertaining but we’re also selling and leading the reader to make his own conclusions is more important than it is on a t.v. show.

Take out a recent lead generation piece. Does it have a story component? If it doesn’t go back to my earlier pieces and learn how to create one.

If your story is feeling a bit drab, try upping the stakes. Add some drama. Have a metaphorical death (or near death), something that tells your reader there is more at stake here than just money, weight, beauty or whatever it is your selling.

If you’re feeling stuck, watch an episode of your favorite drama and see how the writers up the stakes with a death, disease, imprisonment or some other means of telling you there is more at stake here than just a jury decision, day at the office or who inherits dad’s family watch. Think Game of Thrones, Law and Order SVU, Outlander just to name a few.


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