Approach,and end. The 3 essential parts of any narrative, according to chapter VII Poetics of Aristotle’s.
But what use is this structure to us? We already know that every story has a beginning and an end, as well as a course (knot or problem).
The sequence reminds us that this is the logical order that our brain understands, but if we want to learn to structure a text well, we must go further.
Based on Aristotle, the German philologist and novelist Gustav Freytag created the “dramatic structure”, also called the Pyramid of Freytag.
These are the 5 parts of its structure:
- increase in action (complication)
- decrease in action (resolution)
In theory, Freytag’s pyramid was created to explain classical drama and Shakespearean theater, but there is something surprising what you should know.
Professor Keith Quesenberry and Michael Coolsen directed a comprehensive study15 in which he analyzed 108 advertisements that appeared during 2 years in the Super Bowl (the largest American football championship in the United States), the final of which always exceeds 100 million viewers.
Part of the experiment was allowing the audience to vote and share the best ads. Do you know what theirhad in common spots favorite? Its structure fitted in with the Pyramid of Freytag. Surprising, right?
In the essay we can read that this structure predicts the success of a narrative. In fact, a year after the study was published, during an interview, Quesenberry was able to identify which would be the commercial with the highest impact of 2015, getting it right when he pointed to the Budweiser ad that featured a beautiful friendship story between a dog and a horse
In my first book you will find specific structures for each type of text that you can guide yourself with, but I want you to take advantage of the Freytag pyramid. For this reason, and for you to understand it better, I have devised a simile that can help you.
Freytag pyramid applied to a sales text:
- exposure (presentation of the product or service)
- increase in action / complication (pain points)
- climax (call to action)
- decrease in action (recapitulation)
- outcome (closing of sale)
When I audit persuasive texts from clients or review them with them in consulting sessions, I see the same mistake repeated over and over again: the content may be correct but the order is not logical.
If we re-visualize the sequence of closed doors between the product presentation and the final sale, we will realize that we cannot put a sale button before crossing the first door, or that it would make little sense to put a call to action just before a testimony that would allow us to move on to the next. It is a matter of common sense and following an order.
The Freytag structure can help you remember to go step by step to climax to reach the denouement or closing of the sale.
Although I have some sympathy for Freytag (fun fact: we both studied Philology at the same Polish university almost 200 years apart), he is not the only one who has created an effective sequence for your texts.
There are dozens of related formulas that can be related to the structure of texts (4Us, 4Cs, AIDA, FOREST, PPPP, etc.), but I want to tell you about one in particular that you should not forget.
In 2000, direct marketing expert Dan S. Kennedy published the book The Definitive Sales Letter (The Ultimate Sales Letter) where one of the most used formulas in modern persuasive texts was attributed, the PAS formula.
Although I have found an article from 2008 that mentions you as its creator, I cannot confirm 100% that this formula is by D. Kennedy, but what interests me is that you always keep it in mind, whatever you write.
PAS is the acronym for Problem – Agitation – Solution, a sequence as simple as the Aristotelian structure, but which again helps us understand how we should communicate what we offer.
You can use it both in long texts (sales letter) and in extracts and short sentences (posts on Facebook and other networks, headlines, etc.).
I have created a simple example for you to see how to apply it:
Finding the best conditions for a loan can be very stressful.
Theprint of contracts, commissions that appear without warning, opening rates that you did not know … Hundreds of hours wasted to end up with the least profitable option!
With the loan comparison of XXXXX you can stop overwhelming yourself and take a deep breath. Simple, clear and, above all, fast. Choose the parameters and in less than 3 seconds browse only the options that interest you.
It is about presenting a problem or need to delve into what causes discomfort. The last step is to present the benefits of our product as a solution.
It is a very easy sequence to apply and you can use it as an exercise to improve your writing. Take as a reference any product that you have around you (a pillow, a television, a book…) and write the three steps as practice. The PAS formula works because, as I mentioned before, it is based on logic. Remember what you learned when we talked about consumer brains: going from agitation (pain points) to solution (benefits) creates a sense of relief that brings you closer to conversion. Just what we want.