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Write It Like You're In the Movies



Good movies have main characters that matter and actions worth watching.

Does your writing?


What was the most exciting thing about the last good movie you saw? What made you want to go see it in the first place? Your reasons likely revolved around who played the lead roles, or what the protagonist would go through, or what would happen in the movie. In other words: you probably liked the movie for its characters and/or its plot. We want to see who is doing something amazing and what it is they’re doing.


Same goes for writing. Remember that you’re writing for a reader, and then imagine that reader isn’t too different from a movie viewer. Readers, like viewers, notice the who and the what too. They’re on board with your sentence’s protagonist, and they’re paying attention to what that protagonist does – the action. This means the who and what words in your sentences are the most important to the reader. Other words in your sentences, like the, it, in, for, by, of, that, there? Not so much.


So what strategies can we use to create a who that matters and a what that’s worth watching? To create active writing that a reader can not only read but visualize, try making the who and the what your biggest priority, and cutting down on everything else. Chances are, a lot of the other stuff was filler anyway.


1. Create a who that matters:

Technically, the who is the subject of your sentence. The who needs to actually be somebody or something we find familiar or even care about. For example, compare the use of who in these two sentences:


a. It is important to edit your workplace writing to make sure it’s clear and concise.

b. Good writers edit their work to ensure it’s clear and concise.


In example (b), the who is “writers” – something we can imagine, visualize, or recognize. “It” isn’t a very useful or informative “who.” Think about it: who is it?!

2. Create a what that’s busy, active, visual, and exciting:

Make sure your who is doing something cool. Make them discussing, or proposing, or managing, or researching, or even dancing; just don’t make them is-ing or was-ing. Huh? Let’s check out those examples again.

a. It is important to edit your workplace writing to make sure it’s clear and concise.

b. Good writers edit their work to ensure it’s clear and concise.


In example (b), the what is “edit” – something we can imagine, visualize, or recognize. “Is” isn’t a very useful or informative “what.” Think about it: what does it mean to “is”?!


Focusing on the who and what can turn longwinded, vague sentences into masters of concision and action. Readers can attach to somebody real and to something real, just like they do when they’re watching a movie. Below are a few more examples of sentences that start out lost but get active upon revision; to find out more strategies for writing like you’re in the movies, contact onthejobglobal.com to register for a workshop, or download OTJ’s Guide to Writing Like You’re In the Movies.

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