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HomeRants > Talk like a human being. > Develop an attitude. > Let's talk persona to persona.


Learning to be personable

Enter the virtual conversation

Guard your privacy

Morphing, morphing

Responding in persona

Your job is to break through the artificiality of the experience

Envision a satisfactory outcome

Let's talk persona to persona.

Yes, you must invent some kind of persona on your own side, to figure out how to talk to the individuals in your audience, whom you may have caricatured in a set of fictional personas.

Generally, we consider creating a writing persona as a little dishonest, almost like putting on a mask.

True, when the intent is to deceive, overawe, or attack.

But you can create a perfectly reasonable persona, one that has some of your own background, concerns, pet ideas, without being dishonest.

Enter the virtual conversation

You are about to engage in a virtual conversation, where you don't know a lot about the person you are talking to. Sure, you've read the profile, plowed through the email, checked the transaction history.

But you are still guessing. And so you really don't start out with a human relationship.

But if you build your own persona sincerely, out of your own real experience, you will develop a definite connection with the person you are writing for.

If you reveal a few facts about yourself, watch the response.

People realize, gosh, there is a person there.

Suddenly, they want to know about your town, your hobbies, your kids.

Guard your privacy

To protect your own privacy, and to maintain your own boundaries secure, you need a carefully developed persona--a public personality.

Morphing, morphing

You may need to develop a different writing persona for each major group you talk to, so you can morph into their team, looking at things from their point of view as much as possible, using their language, dealing with their concerns.

The process resembles writing a script, where you switch from one character to another, speaking as intensely as you can in that voice, then switching character, and responding.

Sound crazy? Well, sure. Nutcases carry on imaginary conversations and get locked up.

The challenge for you is to stay sympathetic enough with each group and each person so that you don't feel strained adopting the appropriate stance for your relationship.

So you are acting in a role, as one persona, and when you address a niche audience, you are talking to a character you have invented, a persona who stands in for the real people who are members of that group. That's talking persona to persona.

Responding in persona

When you answer e-mail, type responses in a chat session, or post replies on a discussion board, you are, in a way, writing person to person.

But even here you are acting in a role, adopting a persona, and the other person is too. So the conversation has an artificial flavor.

Your job is to break through the artificiality of the experience.

Overcome the distance imposed by the medium, and the constraints of your own context. You have to work hard to become a human being, on the Web.

Imagine the way you would like the virtual conversation to go--what you will say, and what she will say, and how the exchange will progress.

Envision a satisfactory outcome.

What exactly do you want to happen, as a result of the texts you send, and the responses you get back? Where is this relationship headed? As Ann Landers asks, what will make you both happy?

Stretch the canvas and sketch in the basic outlines of the goal. But leave the picture unfinished.

Let the unknown enter--the unpredictable other, the amazing quirks, the surprising feelings, the odd twists of the other person's thoughts-and your own.

People turn out to be full of surprises, if you listen with an open heart. So build your persona loosely enough to make room for their side of the conversation.


Who am I writing for, and, incidentally, who am I? (Full chapter from Hot Text, in PDF, 566K, or about 10 minutes at 56k)












I wear this big cowboy hat because I live in New Mexico,
where the sun is very strong. I put a Lego truck on
my hat brim because I like playing with Legos. Any questions?



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