How to Use Pathos to Maximize Your Reach 

Please feel free to share any additional tips or your personal experiences with writing/blogging in the comments, and stay tuned for more prompts every Thursday!

We’ve talked about ethos, pathos, and logos a lot in school. In my college philosophy course, there was an entire unit devoted to them. What I’ve learned since then is that these three concepts are HUGE in the marketing world. To get people hooked, to draw them in, you have to give them something they want–to appeal to something inside them that incites that index finger to smash that clicky mouse button.

For most of my posts, pathos tends to be the most effective of the three tools. I toss this up to content creation and writing being very emotionally driven activities, so my most successful posts tend to make the audience feel something (whether it’s great, good, bad, awful, or a little bit of everything instead of just the typical pathos concepts of pity or sorrow).

Now, a lot of my personal blog traffic comes from Pinterest and other image-heavy social media outlets. That said, I have to not only tailor my content to be verbally interesting, but my images as well (which I discuss in Why You Need Featured Images For Your Blog Posts).

Sometimes, I use a photo that corresponds with the prompt or article’s concept (like the one attached to this article that likely led you here), but other times a solid black or white background with the text is just as effective. In that regard, I’d encourage you to play around with design and typography to see what works, while keeping in mind that if something wouldn’t catch your attention, it probably won’t catch anyone else’s.

But I digress.

While you’re experimenting, take note of how different images succeed or fail, and try to identify themes. I do this with my content by monitoring individual blog post traffic (which ones get the most like/comments/views) and by monitoring my Pinterest pins (which ones get the most likes/repins/tries and how quickly they grow over time).

This kind of research tells me exactly what my audience likes, so I can focus on making applicable content for them. This process also helps me stay engaged with that audience, which is crucial to success. If something absolutely does not work for someone, I want to know why and–more importantly–how I can fix it in the future. If something is the most amazing thing someone has ever seen, I want to know that, too, so I can continue to produce interesting and useful content.

By keeping up with each post and pin, I am able to assume five things:

  1. Images with photos are not very successful on their own,
  2. Images with plain backgrounds and contrasting text are highly effective,
  3. Thrilling/suspenseful prompts are more successful than abstract concepts,
  4. Shorter prompts are better received,
  5. Fantasy prompts are a clear favorite.

These exact points might not translate to everyone, but they’re the kind of insights I have gained and encourage you to try to gain. It’s clear from these points that the people in my audience are drawn to more jarring, emotionally-laden prompts, so that is what I have been trying to deliver via pathos-inspiring prompts.

Perhaps your audience wants great money-saving tips like in Making Cents of Sense, or perhaps they want fashion advice à la Writes Like A Girl. These ladies have figured out what attracts their audience, and mastered delivering that kind of content.

And you can, too.

Start with an idea. Does it stir up something in you? Call you to action? Make you want to grab your notebook/sketchbook/etc.?

If it doesn’t, move on until you find something that does.

If it does, use it. Push its boundaries. Flesh it out into something you’re satisfied with.

Creative types are generally driven by our desires. If you make something that creates a longing in you, chances are it will create a similar longing in someone else. This is true for blog posts, stories, poems, artwork, and so much more. Share it, but if it falls flat, try to figure out why. Then, use that knowledge to try something a little different, and keep the cycle going until you hit your goal.

Have some writing tips & tricks you’d like to share or see discussed in future posts? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to check out our other Tips & Tricks articles:

Why You Should Write a Character Based on Yourself

Please feel free to share any additional tips or your personal experiences with writing/blogging in the comments, and stay tuned for more prompts every Thursday!

Long answer: Writing a character based on yourself with perhaps a different name, different occupation, or some other changed aspect can lend a wonderful hand to both your writing and your personal growth as a writer.

Short answer: It’s incredibly cathartic.

But in all honesty, I started a book with a main character modeled after the way I perceived myself. I gave her flaws similar to mine, and I gave her some of my aspirations. I let her loose in her own world to live the dreams I have for mine, and the results were amazing.

The character I had created turned into one of my absolute favorites to write, and by falling in love with her, I started to fall back in love with myself.

Granted, she can do a lot of things I can’t/won’t/shouldn’t, but that’s part of the beauty of her: she can have experiences that I can then live vicariously through her, without any real-world consequences.

In a way, she also allowed me to explore what is really important in my life. By making our priorities and lifestyles similar, I started to realize aspects of my life that were getting too much attention (and too much of my worry, like then-troubles at work) while other, more meaningful aspects (like taking time to travel and have dedicated “me time”) were not.

The same can be true for you as a writer. The character you create does not need to be an exact description of yourself and they do not need to do/love/desire the exact same things as you, but you can still create someone close enough to yourself that enables you to explore a kind of alternate reality. Try to make them as real as possible, just like any other character you write, but give them a little something extra, because in way, that character can become an extension of you. They can be the safety net, the trial run, the one into whom you channel your deepest desires and fears, and they will never chastise you for it.

And who knows? Over time, maybe that character will develop into something so strong that they can be shared with the rest of the world, or perhaps they will remain a personal escape in a private world you can use as a sandbox.

It’s all in your hands.

Have some writing tips & tricks you’d like to share or see discussed in future posts? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to check out our other Tips & Tricks articles: