I'm teaching a long copy class this quarter. This is the third in a series of exercises intended for that class. I invite blog readers to share their assignments. Let me know if you found this assignment helpful or interesting.
If you were writing novels, you could get away with developing one strong voice—your voice. But, as it is, you’re going to be writers of advertising, meaning that you’ll have to write in many voices. You might have an assignment to write an ad for gym shoes one day, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes the next and tampons the next. The voice for those brands is probably not the same voice.
There are two parts to this first assignment. The first is to pull three pieces of writing that you love. It doesn’t matter what they are—articles from The Onion, Poe, poetry, Public Enemy lyrics, whatever makes you wish you’d written it. Three pieces that have fairly different tones and styles. Read them carefully and pay attention to what distinguishes the voice in what you’ve picked. Look how the author constructs his sentences. Pay attention to the complexity of the language. The pacing. Does he or she write with long, meandering sentences or short succinct ones? Is it a mix? If so, what is the rhythm? What sort of descriptors does the author use? Adjectives? Metaphors? Why do you like it?
What writers turn you on? Expose us to something new.
For the second part, in class I hand out a classic David Ogilvy ad. Your assignmet is to re-write the copy three times in the voices of the three writing samples you’ve pulled. If you pulled a Richard Brautigan story, rewrite the ad as if Richard Brautigan were writing it. Rather than using an old David Ogilvy ad, use something you've written. Write three versions of it, in your three styles.