Contradiction in Terms
You say to-may-toe; I say toh-mah-tah. Deal with it.
Friday, April 21, 2006

Copywriting 101: definition

Because people keep asking me about it, I’ve decided to put up a sort of online crash course on copywriting. This will be a series, published weekly or, you know, whenever I happen to feel like it.
So just what is copywriting?
You probably know the textbook definition, but I’ll paraphrase it anyway: copywriting is the development of text and concept for the purpose of advertising, marketing, and/or public relations.

Note the word “concept” there—it’s a common misconception that copywriters are responsible only for the words on the page (or screen, billboard, whatever). Sometimes this is true; but more often than not, the copywriter is responsible for the whole idea behind the ad, from the visual element to the fine print. Gifted copywriters like my friend Marco are able to think both textually and visually, which results in seamlessly cohesive ads that bring image and message together to effectively achieve the goal.

And just what is the goal? To sell something. Whether it’s an image, an idea, a product, or a service, the job of a copywriter is to manipulate a specific or general audience into believing that said something is exactly what has always been missing from their lives; the proverbial pot of gold that will bring them health, wealth, and happiness if only they can manage to acquire or achieve it.

Yes, copywriting is salesmanship, although you’re not precisely required to make people buy something—your job is simply to make them want it. It’s also show business; or legerdemain, if you prefer—smoke and mirrors, transforming appearance into belief. I like to think that copywriting, to borrow a phrase from Andrew Lloyd Webber, is the art of the possible. Not the actual, or even the probable, but the possible.

I wouldn’t say it’s a career of lying for a living, because (a) it isn’t all the time, and (b) that wouldn’t be very good copywriting, would it? But if you are an idealist and determined to remain so, then stop right now. Do not become a copywriter; do not pass “go”; do not collect two hundred dollars. This is not the profession for you.

Not sure whether you’re an idealist or a pragmatist? (Copywriters are generally pragmatists; it’s the nature of the beast.) Then answer the following homework assignment, and we’ll see what you’re made of.

“No product is better than ours.”
What does this phrase mean?
Nikki bit in at 2:02 PM :: ::
Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Glass: an excerpt

Whoopee! Vin has selected my submission as the opening story for his dragon anthology; I'm just tickled persimmon (which, you know, is kind of like "pink", but more intense). Here's the first few hundred words of the story.
AFTER LIVING A year and a day atop the Glass Mountain, Mariska determined that the time had come to return to the village she had left behind, and even to the people who had consigned her to a fate they unanimously—though erroneously—considered worse than death.

True, she was alone most of the time. And it was hot in the summer, when the noonday sun splintered into a thousand coruscations of light through the faceted prisms that formed the sharply sloping ceilings of the vast single room that embraced the entirety of her existence. Her clothes—gossamer fine, the best the villagers could collectively obtain to appease the Mountain—would stick to her skin, becoming nearly as transparent as the walls that invisibly bound her; rendering her less a sacrificial offering, she thought, than some waterlogged bit of flotsam flung contemptuously ashore by a disdainful sea.

He had laughed delightedly when she shared this observation.

She was too beautiful, that was her trouble. Sun kissed skin, twilit hair—she might have been born to live the rest of her days wrapped in crystal, trapped in light; like a butterfly, a moth, an exquisite thing meant to fly yet engulfed instead in sap and preserved forever—seen but not heard, held but not touched—in amber. Certainly the villagers had thought so, or thought something in that vein—the women hating her for her beauty; the men hating her for wanting more than life as a fisherman’s woman had to offer; the women hating her still more for not wanting what they wanted, not taking what she could so easily have had.

He did not understand this, no matter how many times she tried to explain it to Him.

And so, the Mountain. The towering Mountain that shattered sun and sharpened rain before these could fall upon the village that trembled in its absence of shadow; the treacherous Mountain that claimed the lives of young men who sought to prove themselves—not a few for her sake—by daring its sly, slithery slopes; the terrible Mountain that demanded tribute every score of years or so by the portentous doom of its ominous rumbling.

He had laughed again, when she told Him this last. He was much given to laughter, though He claimed He was not so out of her presence.

Oh, but it was beautiful, the Mountain, made more so by the very impossibility of it; the implacability of it; the impudent defiance with which it glared radiance back at whatever sun god had created this otherwise orderly existence. It would not conform, the Glass Mountain; it would not compromise.

If it wanted a woman, He would have her.
Nikki bit in at 1:06 PM :: ::
Monday, April 17, 2006


I've changed my email address because I'm sick of the spam: no, my love life does not need a boost; no, I am not interested in low cost, high quality stock; no, I am not drowning under the weight of my mortgage (and even if I were, your mixed metaphor would ensure that I do not turn to you, you illiterate spammer, you); and no, my penis does not require enhancement.

Anyway, if you happen to have my old email address, you can write me there--I'll keep checking it for the next week or so--to ask for the new one. Be warned, however, that I will then feel fully licensed to laugh at you, as there are multiple opportunities on this very page to discern what said new email address is.

Yes, I know this makes it possible for the spam problem to recur, but my new email service provides better spam protection than the old one, so I live in hope that my life may henceforth be free from offers of fabulous inheritances from Rwanda. I'm beginning to be mildly stressed that supposed relatives of mine keep keeling over every few weeks or so; I mean, what does this say about my genetic predisposition, right? Then again, I could always appreciate the silver lining, considering how my African relations are evidently single-handedly (or multi-handedly, I guess) solving the world's population problems.

So there. Spam, begone--though I may grow to miss people addressing me as Dolores, or Bianca. Or "Nik, my man".
Nikki bit in at 5:53 PM :: ::
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