In this issue:

  • F*ck cancer
  • How to create personal conflict
  • Making newsletters less marketer-y
  • Engaging every age group on social
  • Multiple personalities for AI
  • Establishing crediblity


Oh! And I’m developing a course. Reply to this email to ask me more.

Let’s go.

One of our own needs our help!

This one’s more serious than usual.

Devin Bramhall, the former CEO of Animalz, needs our help.

She was recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and many members of our community of pitching in to raise money so she can fight this thing full-timeb.

Jay Acunzo and several other industry heavy hitters are doing a fundraiser where they are sharing their favorite frameworks they’ve used to build their business or careers.

The minimum donation for this fundraiser is $15 but with the caliber of speaker who will be there, it would easily be $1,500.

Event is on December 18th from 12-4 est.

Register here

Top of mind:

Your A-hole boss.


That one difficult customer.


The popular guru who spreads bad advice.


Welcome to the second layer of conflict… Personal relationships.

Robert Mckee's three layers of conflict - Extra-personal (individuals in society, social institutions, and physical environments) Personal conflicts (Family, friends, lovers), Personal conflicts (emotions, mind, body)

Before we get too deep, I am going to suggest that when we talk about personal conflicts, we’re not actually talking about our reader’s relationships.


We can’t.


Even the best research won’t help us understand the complexities of our reader’s relationships.


However, we also don’t want to fall into the trap of creating generalized characterizations like the ones at the beginning of the email.


Aaron Sorkin, writer of “The Social Network” says it best.

“The properties of people and the properties of characters have almost nothing to do with each other.”

That’s because when we talk about conflict in personal relationships, what we’re actually talking about is the conflicting ideology that the other person represents.


To get to the ideology, we have to first understand the logline and theme; what the piece is truly about.


This logline should be a simple, one-sentence description that contains four elements:

The four elements of a good logline: Main CharacterInciting IncidentGoalStakes
Full credit goes to screenwriting consultant Tyler Mowery

These elements are:

  • Main Character
  • Inciting Incident
  • Goal
  • Stakes

We’ll talk about loglines and themes another time, but for now, consider what screenwriting consultant Tyler Mowery says:


“When it’s put together, it looks like this: When the MAIN CHARACTER suffers INCITING INCIDENT they must ACHIEVE GOAL before STAKES.”


Here’s an example from the movie “The Fugitive”.

“Falsely accused of killing his wife, a doctor desperately searches for the real killer, with a relentless federal agent hot on his trail.”

There are several smaller themes in “The Fugitive,” but the main one is the search for truth.


To stick with the topic of personal conflict, the three characters, and therefore conflicting ideologies are Lies (the real murderers) Truth (the doctor) and Law (the federal agent).


Coming up with the theme first allows us to put it at the center, and then decide what all the beliefs are about that theme. Because characters aren’t people, each belief is represented by a character.


This concept comes from Youtuber LocalScriptMan who illustrates it like this:

Several stick people on different sides of a conflict

The idea is that as each perspective or belief emerges, there will be some characters in natural conflict and some that complement each other – this builds your cast, and naturally creates allies and enemies.


At this point, these characters do not have fleshed-out traits, they are just avatars for the belief as it relates to the theme.

The cover art of "The Fugitive"


Let’s look at the four key figures in “The Fugitive” and their role in the theme, “The search for truth.”


  • Dr. Richard Kimble (Truth – the falsely accused)
  • Dr. Charles Nichols (Lies – the conspiracy mastermind)
  • Ex-Cop Frederick Sykes (Lies – the killer)
  • U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Truth – the law)


In the plot of “The Fugitive,” Dr. Kimble uncovers serious side effects of the drug Provasic.


If he were to follow his belief (Truth) the drug wouldn’t be approved and Dr. Charles Nichols (Lies) stands to lose a lot of money – so he hires ex-cop Frederick Sykes who frames Kimble after murdering his wife.


U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard also believes in the Truth, but because he also believes in the law and because he is under the false impression Kimble killed his wife, that’s who he chases. It’s not until until he realizes Kimble is innocent that he becomes an ally, and arrests Nichols and Sykes instead.


If the theme is the search for truth, on one side we have Samuel Gerard and Dr. Kimble; on the other, Fredrick Sykes and Charles Nichols.


Make sense?


Bonus:
If we wanted to add in the extra-personal layer like we talked about in the last issue, we’d layer in the Super Conflict of time and space, as both are actively working against Dr. Kimble and U.S. Marshal Gerard as they pursue their respective Super Objective.


Now let’s apply this to B2B content.


Let’s pretend we’re writing a piece on selecting an AI tool for the business.


Using the framework “When the MAIN CHARACTER suffers INCITING INCIDENT they must ACHIEVE GOAL before STAKES., the logline might look like this:


​After being tasked with increasing output and decreasing costs before the end of the quarter (inciting incident), a content marketing director (main character), evaluates AI platforms (goal), to avoid losing their budget before the end of the quarter (stakes).


Our main theme is “Balancing efficiency with quality.


Our cast of characters and what they represent would be:

  • The Reader ( Marketing manager/quality)
  • The Manager (Middle management/efficiency)
  • Emma (The VP / budget and scale)
  • Cassie (Finance/budget and time)

Our extra-personal conflict would be time.

Here’s how this piece might open:

“Tsk, tuk tuk tuk”

Another Slack notification.

“God, at this rate, I’m never going to get this article edited,” you mutter.

It’s your manager.

“Hey, I just got out of the marketing budget meeting with Emma. She said marketing needs to start putting out more content, and Cassie from Finance reminded me if we don’t use our budget by the end of the month, we’re going to lose it. I know how you feel about it, but I agree with them, and we’ve got to select an AI tool if we’re going to hit these goals. Get me a list of the best options by EOD – and try to keep it under 10k a year. I know you’ve got a lot going on, but this has to be a priority.”

You knew this day would come.

Now that it’s here, how do you choose an AI tool when you’re fundamentally against them? What are the considerations?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered

This intro hits all of the notes of the logline formula and even incorporates the extra-personal Super Conflict we discussed in the last issue:

  • Main character – The Reader
  • Inciting incident – The meeting with finance Goal – Find AI software
  • Stakes – Loose budget


Bonus:

  • Extra personal conflict – Deadlines & The VP of Marketing and Finance departments
  • Personal conflict – The manager


If you’re wondering why The VP of Marketing and Finance departments are considered an extra-personal conflict, it’s because their authority that creates the conflict, and not the person directly.


In contrast, The Manager is someone The Reader can have a direct interaction with, and there are very real stakes behind how their next interaction will go.


Referring back to our previous issue, this article also kicks off our reader’s Super Objective of “Use AI to create content at scale without losing quality.”


Other articles that might have a thematic relationship to this one might include:

  • “How to train freelancers on using AI effectively.”
  • “Tips for having AI write in your company’s voice.”
  • “How to use AI to quickly edit your content.”

See how it’s all tying together?


The reason I’m so bullish on this is we’re at a tipping point.


There’s so much talk about “The Playbook” being dead, but there are only so many ways we’ll ever be able to deliver our message.


It’s not a medium problem, it’s a connection problem, and if we continue creating surface-deep content, budgets will be cut, managers will be laid off, and freelancers will be left in the cold.


Make no mistake, the fight for survival has already started, and it’s only going to get worse.


It’s level up or left behind.


Your choice.

Thank you to our sponsor aHrefs

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What’s on our radar?

🚀 How to make a newsletter more than a marketing thing.

💡 10 “behind-the-scenes” content ideas


🤓 How to engage every age group on social media

🙄 Google’s new email sender requirements

Let’s get social

Lots of folks talk about giving ChatGPT and other AI language models a personality if they’re going to write for you, but they don’t say how.

Shlomo Genchin just gave you 100 different characters and 9 personality types to work off of.

Thanks Shlomo!

The Cutting Room Replay: What is going on here?

video preview


In this episode, we discuss:

👉 The importance of specificity, and how to do it better.
👉 The overblown role of SEO in a content strategy. 👉 The emphasis on innovation and creativity within the constraints of talent and budget limitations.

💬 Here are some of our favorite quotable moments

“If you want to communicate effectively, you must use the right words.”
“Show people what opportunities or obstacles that they didn’t even know they needed to tackle. That’s the stuff that levels you up as a company, as a brand, as a human.”

“If you don’t have the resources to do the thing […], there are other things you can try. That’s where innovation can happen. Constraints breed creativity.”

Enjoy the episode.

From “The Vault”

Braveen Kumar says in his comment

​​Braveen Kumar’s edit emphasizes the importance of sign-posting throughout the article to set up what happens next, as well as word economy, and the “shape” of the paragraphs to make the content as easy to consume as possible.

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