It’s a universal truth. As humans, we want to feel successful, loved, and satisfied with our lives. If there are ways to make our life better, most of us will jump at the chance. This is why we read books: to follow other people’s lives, which gives us hope for our own.
This is why we buy wrinkle cream and fitness trackers and a million other things.
If you are running an online store, you may not have thought of your products in that way, especially when you are sitting in front of your computer monitor, struggling to find just the write words to get your would-be customers excited about what you are selling. But if you think of your product as a character and the description as the plot, you’ll have a better shot at connecting with those visitors.
7 Pieces of Fiction Advice for Writing Dazzling Product Descriptions
1. It’s all about the story.
In a fiction book, the character always needs something (love, acceptance, wealth) and her actions will hinge on what she thinks she needs to do to get it. That sets up the story and plot.
If you place your customer in the plot (your product description) and figure out what she needs and why she needs it, you will have her motivation for buying. Your description should speak to that need and how your product fills it.
2. Show, don’t tell.
It’s the first rule in writing fiction and it applies beautifully here. Anton Chekhov, the brilliant Russian playwright and short story author, said it best:
Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass.
How does this translate to product descriptions? Instead of telling us how good your product is, show us what it can do, what will be the result of using, wearing, tasting it. for instance, for a sleep mask, I want to know that it will contour to my nose, that it blocks out all the rays, Will it also work to decrease the puffiness around my eyes?
3. Start strong and avoid redundancy.
You only have so many words. You want to front-load the most important information so the reader doesn’t have to click on “more” to get to the interesting stuff. In a novel, that would be the first chapter or, more realistically, the first page of Chapter One.
In a product description, you’re looking at the first sentence or two.
4. Look for the unique.
It isn’t always easy, but if you can scratch below the surface, you may find what sets your product apart from your competitors.
Maybe the coffee you sell is part of a micro-enterprise project for women in a third world country. Or It could be something as small as a product offered in an out-of-the-ordinary color. Or an added accessory you throw in free of charge.
5. Details are your friends.
Piggybacking off #4, we can visualize and better remember things that have interesting details. In a work of fiction, we tend to immerse ourselves into stories that have more specifics. Why? Because the details make them more believable. It isn’t a cat. It’s a slightly obese orange tabby with a scar under his right eye. The character didn’t pick up the newspaper. He picked up The New York Times.
For online products, it’s even more crucial because we want to know whether it works in real life situations. Let’s go back to that sleep mask and think of possible details. What percentage of light rays does it block out? How many months/years of use does the average person get out of it? And of course, with product images that don’t speak to size, do include the dimensions. With a piece of technology, I want to know what kind of cords are needed to fit the plugin.
6. Weed out the clichés and overused words.
Words like “excellent” and “best” don’t have a place in your writing unless they can be proven. Now if your product has gained recognition on a prestigious “Best of…” list or you’ve been singled out for an award, by all, means, use that. But just using the word “best,” especially when everyone on the planet is using it, does nothing for you.
Except, maybe, if your readers and site visitors are clones of Buddy the Elf:
7. Appeal to your reader’s senses.
The best novels are the ones that carry us away into their world and feel like we are experiencing it. From the characters— and what they do— to the setting, we can almost hear, touch, taste and smell our way through. Take this excerpt that starts Chapter 2 of Bastard Out of Carolina:
Greenville, South Carolina, in 1955 was the most beautiful place in the world. Black walnut trees dropped their green-black fuzzy bulbs on Aunt Ruth’s matted lawn, past where their knotty roots rose up out of the ground like the elbows and knees of dirty children suntanned dark and covered with scars. Weeping willows marched across the yard, following every wandering stream and ditch, their long whiplike fronds making tents that sheltered sweet-smelling beds of clover.
Any good writing that appeals to the senses—”green-black fuzzy bulbs,” “long, whiplike fronds,” “Sweet-smelling beds of clover,”—gets the reader to imagine what something looks, feels, sounds and smells like.
This is another technique that carries more importance when we are selling online. They can’t pick it up and touch it, so describe the texture of that paper of the stationery you sell. Use words to describe the scent of the coffee you want them to buy. You get the idea.
Try going through the rough drafts of your product description or take a second look at your published ones, to see if you can tighten them up and make your products more appealing to your site visitors.
An audio option for this post.