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Don’t Be Trapped by Form

When I first came to Los Angeles, one of my screenwriting instructors told me something that I still find invaluable today. He said, “When you have a story, outline it, abstract it, even write it without considering whether it will be a novel, a screenplay or a television show. If you start with the form, you immediately fall into the tropes of that form. You may miss the deeper and more impactful meaning of your story.”

Form can be a trap.

For example, imagine what Game of Thrones would be like if it had been written in the form of a television series instead of a series of books. It would almost certainly lack the depth of the huge, layered world that George R. R. Martin created. I would argue that it’s a better television show for having started in novel form.

The trap of form applies to business content, too. As business communicators, we almost always think form first. To solve a particular challenge, we say, “We need a website” or “We need a white paper” or “We need a printed manual.” Only then do we say, “Great, what kind of content should we pour into that form?” I’ve seen many amazing big ideas get trapped in the form of a blog post, a white paper, or a printed article simply because that’s how the ideas were initially conceived.

What if we thought outside the form?

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