Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The Art of The Promo

This week's rant will 100% NOT be about selling your books. Sorry, we all know the best way to do that is to spam strangers via DM. That's how King did it and that's how all of us should do it.

Moving on.

No, what I'm talking about is something I learned from professional wrestling: the promo. In wrestling, a promo is short for "promotional interview", a dialogue or monologue used to advance a story line. For anyone unfamiliar with wrestling, but familiar with guys like Hulk Hogan, these were the segments where all his veins popped out his neck and he called everyone 'brother'.

The promo, while entirely about conveying a story as broad as humanly possible (and really, just to sell tickets) is still a storytelling tool. That said, it is an incredibly POWERFUL storytelling tool. That broad scope. The simple to understand motivations, the very distinct line between the good guy and the bad guy - all vital tools to help you build out not only your own stories, but mostly importantly, your characters.

Now, I know a lot of folks look down at professional wrestling and at times, rightfully so, but I'm the type of person that not only enjoys the medium, but I've found opportunities to help my own writing via the use of storytelling within the medium (the violence itself is a big help for writing action, but that's for another rant).

So why is the promo helpful (to me)? Think about a promo as sort of a character sheet. Quite often, these performers need to leverage these shouty speeches as a means of not only selling the show but selling their character. Each iteration of these promos needs to not only be as accessible as possible, but they need to somehow carry a story along with them. At it's very base nature, the promo is both extremely simplistic but can become nuanced enough to build an entire character from.

Take our 80s icon above. You might remember the Hulkster was all about prayers and vitamins and all that junk, but beyond all the jingoistic nonsense and corporate morality, you can gain a pretty quick idea of who our hero is supposed to be. Is it cliche? Holy shit yes, but it's still a character sheet and the character is telling the story.

Which is why I'm a fan of using promos when I'm building characters. It's one thing to write out a background for a character, but it's another thing to let them speak for themselves. A monologue conveying my characters' motivations and emotions about the story they are about to embark on can be immensely helpful not just in giving the character depth but in discovering their voice. Trust me; you haven't lived until you paced in your office and read off three paragraphs as a character simply stating what they want, why the want it, and what they will do to get it - loudly. You'll spot contradictions, find the seeds of larger motivations and character arcs, and opportunities to explore headier concepts.

Just don't work yourself into a shoot, brother.

Google it.

Angel Luis Col√≥n is the Derringer and Anthony Award nominated writer of 5 books including his latest novel HELL CHOSE ME. In his down time, he’s edited an anthology or two, hosted a podcast, helped edit the flash fiction site Shotgun Honey, and has taken up bread baking during the pandemic because why the hell not?

Keep up with him on Twitter via @GoshDarnMyLife

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