An exercise in good writing

Over at ProBlogger Jon Morrow, of Copyblogger, posted a motivational article called How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise, and Get Paid to Change the World.

It’s an emotional topic and not just because of the catchy title. It has garnered hundreds of comments. Read the article and you’ll see why. But I don’t want to talk about what caused the outpouring of support, I want to talk about the writing.

This is fact, not fiction, but if you study Morrow’s technique this is ideal for fiction.

More after the break, with major spoilers.

First, he has a catchy title, perfectly aimed at his target audience. His audience for this topic is people who want to make money through blogging.

How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise, and Get Paid to Change the World

But the title reaches out to more than just his target audience. Who doesn’t want to quit their job and move to paradise? For me, getting paid to change the world would be an added bonus.

Morrow starts off his short introduction by qualifying his definition of success.

… Forget the mansions and limousines and other trappings of Hollywood-style wealth. Sure, it would be nice, but for the most part, we bloggers are simpler souls with much kinder dreams.

We want to quit our jobs, spend more time with our families, and finally have time to write. We want the freedom to work when we want, where we want. We want our writing to help people, to inspire them, to change them from the inside out …

How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise, and Get Paid to Change the World, Jon Morrow on Problogger

It’s not too long, it’s targeted to his audience and it’s reasonable. Then he starts on his story.

How I quit my job

In April of 2006, I was hit by a car going 85 miles an hour.

I didn’t see him coming, and I don’t remember much about the accident, but I do remember being pulled out of my minivan with my shirt on fire. The front end of the van was torn off, gasoline was everywhere, and my legs were broken in 14 places.

How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise, and Get Paid to Change the World, Jon Morrow on Problogger

The writing is clear and there’s a lot of colour. He doesn’t just tell you he was hit by a speeding car, he gives you concrete facts and you can see the images and the end result. Incidentally, for those of us in metric-land, 85 mph is 137 kph.

In fiction, this would be major plot point one.

From there Morrow goes on to talk about how this experience changed made him re-evaluate his life. He quits work and starts blogging and eventually makes a success of it.

Major plot point two. Morrow realises he doesn’t like where he’s living so he buys himself a beachside condo in Mazatlan, Mexico, because now he has the freedom to live where he wants to.

It’s still good writing and interesting, but if Morrow stopped here it would be just another ‘feel-good how to succeed’ article.

Morrow doesn’t stop here. He brings in plot point three.

… I left out a piece of the story. It’s the part where I have a fatal disease, I can’t move from the neck down …

How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise, and Get Paid to Change the World, Jon Morrow on Problogger

and you realise that this is not just from the accident. He’s been like this all his life. Suddenly your reader’s perception changes.

In fiction terminology, the plot has twisted and gone off in a totally new direction. You reconsider what you have read up to now and realise you see his earlier tale in a different way. That what you thought you knew was only a part of the whole picture.

Morrow goes on to talk about the obstacles he overcame to get where he was.
At the end, when he says

YOU CAN DO THIS!
… You can.

How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise, and Get Paid to Change the World, Jon Morrow on Problogger

he is not just another blogger who quit his day job and went to live in paradise and help people. He has proven his credibility and as a result the message at the end is powerful and motivating.

It’s strong writing and it works as well for fiction as it does for non-fiction.

Posted in Technique, Writing general

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