I was looking at Kimberly Seville’s lead for a recent Covenant House mailing. It’s a fundraising letter for a children’s shelter or orphanage or something.
It starts with a compelling therapeutic metaphor. Lots of uses of first person narrative. When you do that, people naturally project themselves into the role of that character. I’ll quote a few examples and the possible effects:
"How about if I find you some dry clothes to change into." – Readers can think they’re finding clothes for the kid.
"We are going to do everything we can to help you, I promise." – Readers will do whatever they can to help.
"I heard her small, timid little voice whisper, “Thanks.”" – Readers feel personally thanked by this kid.
"Finally, she looked up at me and apparently she felt like she could trust me…" – Readers feel like they can trust the narrator and/or Covenant House.
Then we have an expert example of pacing and leading. Pacing is basically where you tell the subject their experience and internally they affirm that it’s true and their resistance drops. Doing this in writing is trickier than in person because you can see what the person is experiencing in person. Once you’ve paced, you can lead as long as it’s small steps.
The copywriter paces in the story and through the narrator so it doesn’t matter what the reader is currently experiencing. The reader can’t help but be projected into this pacing experience. Here it is:
"As I sat there, listening to Kelly, in my own mind I felt that I was giving her something that goes far beyond food and clothing and shelter…"
I’m wondering if you caught it. Three consecutive paces followed by a lead: 1) as I sat there, 2) listening to Kelly, 3) in my own mind I felt. The lead is that the narrator and then reader is giving the kid much more than their money. It’s all so subtle that it’s nearly impossible to resist.
The copywriter could have started the paragraph with, "I was giving her something…" The meaning is the same. Instead, she paced and led. Nice and effective.