The 5 Classic Stories To Hook Your Prospects

Good copywriters know that emotion keeps prospects reading. The most powerful shortcut into emotions is through storytelling. Humans seem to be hardwired for an emotional involvement with a good story.

According to Nick Morgan of Public Words, we can condense all storytelling into one of these 5 classic models:
  1. Quest
  2. Stranger in a Strange Land
  3. Rags to Riches
  4. Revenge
  5. Love Story
Here's what these stories mean, and how you might apply them in your copywriting.


In the Quest, the hero has a strong emotional hunger to achieve some goal. This story tells the journey to achievement. It shows how the hero's fundamental nature changes during the journey.

In copywriting, the hero is the prospect or indirectly a spokesperson that the prospect can relate to. The Quest goal should be the Big Promise of your product. The story rounds out the journey with all the benefits that improve the prospect's life when he uses your product.

Stranger in a Strange Land

The heroine is emotionally lost and confused. She doesn't quite understand the world she has stepped into. This story tells how she comes to understand her new world, and how she can make sense of it all.

This approach would work well for campaigns selling any kind of information products — especially "How To" training materials.

Put the prospect into the confused shoes of the Big Problem your product addresses. Then build-out how the product solves this problem. She becomes the heroine of her own life story and gains a new-found self-understanding. She successfully takes charge of whatever it is that your product lets her do better.

Rags to Riches

He's lucky. Or he works hard. Or he has some fantastic combination of these two. In this story the hero goes from being simple to super-successful

The Rags to Riches story appeals to the emotions of greed or loneliness. It shows how hard work — maybe mixed with a bit of luck — will lead to rational results.

It should be obvious that this story would work for just about any financial product. Use the track record of your product to point the path from an ordinary life to an extraordinary one. Use testimonials that support the Rags to Riches feel.


Ah, sweet Revenge… An insult slaps the hero and he must fight back to set everything right! This story dials anger and hatred high. The hero must defend order and respect.

The copywriting approach of describing a common enemy works here.

Consider the promos that accuse the President or Wall Street Insiders as forces blocking the prospect. The hero deserves a full and rich life. These enemies must respect order in his life. The product is the path to that righteous order.

Love Story

Love Stories can be either comedies or tragedies.

Comedy doesn't necessarily mean the story is full of laughs, but it does end well for the happy couple. Through many ups and downs, misunderstandings, betrayals and reconciliations, the couple finally work everything out and are happily together by the end of the story.

In a tragedy, the couple goes through the same cycle of trials and tribulations, but it doesn't end "happily ever after." Someone doesn't need to die, but something tragic indeed happens to love by the end of the story.

Fundraising copy can work well with the tragic storyline. The hero isn't the prospect though. In this approach, the hero struck by tragedy would be the poor soul suffering through disease or hunger. You would show how your prospect's giving could change the end to that story.

Sex appeal works well with the "happily ever after" of comedy. The product makes the prospect more attractive and more popular. He gets the girl. Axe deodorant commercials are comedic love stories.

You could even position a product like a resume service as a type of love story. The service eliminates the misunderstandings in the job market, and the girl gets the job.

Stories appeal to our basic humanity. They are the shortest path to emotions. And emotions sell. Be a good storyteller in your copy and your content and your campaigns will live happily every after too.

By Kevin Rokosh

Further Reading:
The Savvy Copywriter's Advantage: Creative Copywriting
How to Write Great Copy using Storytelling Techniques

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