Now it’s time to take a step that’s a lot of fun. It’s time to really open up your creative mind and paint a vivid picture in your reader’s mind, a picture that is so vivid that it becomes very easy for them to cross that magic bridge and immerse themselves completely in your story.
To start, let’s review where we’ve been so far.
You’ve decided that you want to tell a story to persuade your donors to give because it’s the most persuasive tool you’ve got. You want your story to be so emotionally engaging that your audience will cross that bridge and immerse themselves in your story. You’ve chosen your protagonist and your cast of characters. Then, you’ve sent your protagonist on a journey – but that journey is opposed by your story’s nemesis. All the tension reaches its peak when you create your magic moment.
All this is well and good – but HOW do you go about creating that magic moment? What is it that makes that moment magic anyway?
I’ve got two tools you can use to bring your magic moment from a scene shot in black and white to one that explodes in brilliant colour. These tools are your sure way to maximize your audience’s engagement with, and involvement in, your tale.
1. USE THE SENSES
We humans experience our entire lives through our five senses. All of our experiences begin with inputting new information into our brain by seeing, smelling, touching, hearing and tasting. Neurological psychologists tell us that as people read about a sensory experience (like the smell of a turkey roasting in the oven), they actually mimic that smell in their own minds. This applies to all the five senses.
Let’s go back to the railway platform scene from “Sophie’s Choice.” I would argue that two senses brought that scene to life in a vivid way that was very real to the movie’s audience.
First, there was the sight of the people being loaded onto freight cars wearing their shabby clothes with the yellow Stars of David pinned to their chests. The terrifying Nazi officers immaculate in their black uniforms. And of – course, the faces of the Nazi officer and Sophie herself as he interrogates her. As you watch this scene, you’re right there in the railway station – just a few feet from Sophie and the Nazi.
Second, there were the sounds in the scene. The background sounds of train engines and wheels on the track. But the important sounds in this scene are two voices. The Nazi’s voice is cold, clinical and cruel. His voice convinces us that he means what he says and he’s prepared to murder a child. Sophie’s voice is one of a terrified little girl who is so gripped with fear and dread that she feels doomed no matter what she does.
2. CHOOSE THE EMOTION THAT WORKS BEST
Just as we have five senses to input new information into our brains, we also have four primary emotions that serve as our reaction to new stimuli. Just as red, yellow and blue are primary colours, anger, fear, sadness and happiness are the primary emotions that we’ve evolved over millions of years of history.
Imagine yourself as Sophie on that platform with the Nazi’s face just inches from yours. Do you want your audience to feel happy? Sad? Angry? Fearful? Of course, the answer is a no-brainer. Sophie is not only afraid – she’s terrified for her life and her children’s lives.
Choose one of each
Once you’ve identified your story’s magic moment, your next step is to choose one (or maybe two) of the senses and one emotion that you want to focus on to deeply connect with your audience.
If your magic moment is an abandoned puppy meeting his forever family, you probably chose happiness as your emotion – and sight of his wagging tail and sound of her excited barks as your sensory stimulants.
If the magic moment is a man holding his wife’s hand in a hospital room as she dies, you would choose sadness as your emotion and perhaps the sound of the heart monitor’s beep beep going silent as her heart stops beating.
You get the idea.
I encourage you to be very intentional with the senses and emotions you use to paint your magic moment full of colour. And, I encourage you to be very specific and creative as you describe your sense and emotion.
If you can create a truly memorable magic moment – using our human senses and emotions – you’ll have your audience hooked. They will cross that bridge for sure – and your story will be a smashing success!
Fraser Green is a Principal at Good Works, one of Canada’s leading fundraising consulting agencies. At Good Works, Fraser’s focus is on legacy gift marketing strategy, donor research and, well, storytelling! Fraser is the co-author of “Iceberg Philanthropy” and “You Can’t Take It With You – The Art and Science of Legacy Fundraising” and the author of “3D Philanthropy.” firstname.lastname@example.org