17 Jun Telling STORIES 3 tips for narrative writing
Human beings have told stories for millennia. Back when our ancestors were living in caves and hunting woolly mammoths, they told each other stories.
Why was that? Because stories make information memorable. If I tell you a dramatic story about how I nearly got eaten by a sabre toothed tiger by the waterfall, you’re more likely to remember it than if I just tell you not to go near the waterfall because it’s dangerous.
Stories helped us stay alive and thrive as a species. So get any preconceptions about fairy tales and cutesy bedtime stories out of your head. Storytelling is powerful – and you can use it to make your writing more characterful and engaging.
Let’s look at a few ways we can use stories to infuse our writing with personality. The examples will take as inspiration a short blog post I’m writing for my client Lois, who owns a local flower shop. The post is about why roses are an excellent choice for a wedding bouquet.
A blog is an excellent place to experiment with storytelling. That’s because stories are great ways to connect with your reader and build your brand, which are probably some of the main reasons you started your blog in the first place.
- Journey through history
Roses have a special place in history. According to Greek mythology, the first rose was created by Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Thousands of years later, the Egyptian queen Cleopatra soaked in a warm bath of donkey’s milk, honey and fragrant rose petals. And the rose has inspired romantic poems by Shakespeare, Robert Burns and Dylan Thomas.
One of the easiest ways of telling a story in your writing is to draw on history. That’s what I’ve done here in my run-down of the history of the rose. It’s a great way to start a piece of writing because it draws the reader in and puts your message into a wider context.
Think about how you might zoom in and out of a moment in history. For example, if I wanted to highlight just the decadent element of the rose, I could focus just on the Cleopatra story and fill that with more detail. Or I could focus on another aspect of the rose, such as the biological or geographic history, or take you on a journey through their use in medicine or how they’ve been portrayed in art through the centuries.
There are so many possibilities and the great thing about using history and facts in your storytelling is that you don’t have to come up with anything from scratch – you just need Wikipedia! Just make sure that you choose the story that best aligns to your message and objective. In this case, focusing on the romantic aspects of the roses history is most apt. This is a blog post about wedding bouquets after all.
- Get personal
I was five years old the first time I saw a rose. It was one of a dozen bright yellow roses that were in a vase in my grandma’s living room. My grandma told me it was called a sweetheart rose.
20 years after I saw that first rose in my grandma’s living room, I walked down the aisle holding a wedding bouquet full of identical yellow sweetheart roses. My grandma wasn’t there to see me get married, but I feel like she was with me in spirit.
Telling a personal story about your connection with the subject can be a powerful way of connecting with your reader. Lois has a touching story about why roses are important to her that I’m going to use to top and tail the blog post. This will make the post flow really nicely and it works especially well in this case because there’s a 20 year break in the story which gives us a natural place to break the text.
So when you’re writing a blog post or product description or social media update, think about your connection to the subject and if there are any stories of your own you can share.
- Transport your reader
Imagine picking roses in a beautiful garden on a summer morning. Dew still clings to the petals. Their sweet, exotic scent fills the air. It’s a tranquil moment. Now imagine your wedding day with that feeling of tranquility captured in a vibrant bouquet of freshly-picked roses.
Let’s see one more way of using storytelling. Transporting your reader to another place and time. This is particularly powerful because it puts the focus of the writing on the reader.
By starting off asking the reader to imagine themselves in a situation you’re clearly signposting what’s coming next. You then talk them through a scenario. Using short sentences like I’ve done here to lead them through the story is often effective. You can then end by bringing the reader back to the present with a line that links the story to your objective or message. Ending the story with the reader imagining interacting with your product is particularly powerful.
Notice how I’ve used a lot of sensory words in this example to help the reader imagine themselves in the scenario. By appealing to all of our reader’s senses, we can make them feel more engaged in what we’re talking about – as if they’re experiencing it for themselves. We can connect with them on a deeper level.
Start telling tales
I hope these examples have shown how you can easily use stories in your writing to give it more personality and character using one of these three simple methods.
Enjoy practicing your new storytelling skills.
Posted in Copywriting