How to create stories about seemingly lifeless topics - an editors best advice
You have probably heard of storytelling concepts like “the hero's journey” or the “seven basic plots”. How a writer can evoke feelings through a specific story arc, or how every Hollywood movie revolves around the same essential story.
Unfortunately, very few of us have the opportunity to use these concepts, stories or narratives in our daily marketing work. But if you do, then congratulations! Just go ahead and retell what you see and hear.
These tips aim to help out with all those other stories. Those that “need to tell about the new production line at the vegan food factory in Eslöv” or about “the future of third party logistics”. In short, a defibrillator for things that may lack a pulse.
So, let's dive in.
1 - Don’t be Wikipedia
Though we would all love to have the internet presence of Wikipedia, don’t write like them. Stories trump information. Try to put images in the reader’s head. It not only makes the reader want to continue reading, but also helps them remember the content (see tip #4).
For example, do not start an article about the Panama canal with:
France began work on the canal in 1881, but stopped due to engineering problems and a high worker-mortality rate.
Instead, start with:
February 1, 1881, Ferdinand de Lesseps stood in front of a crowd of French journalists, straightened his dress suit and proclaimed: ”Let the work begin!”. He should never have done that.
2 - Create, don’t report
In news journalism, you often have the luxury of reacting to stories that are already there. In marketing that is rarely the case. Instead, you have to create them. That doesn't mean making it up, it means you have to use your own creativity to figure out the main thread of the story. Gather all research, sleep on it, then mold it into your own. Choose what to keep and what to drop and don’t fall in the quotes-trap, stacking quotes from the experts on top of each other. Use their words as research for your own narrative.
3 - Use examples
You might have heard the well-used phrase “show, don't tell”. How you should try to show the reader what you mean, through “writing images” (se tip #1) or examples, instead of trying to explain it. Examples are a brilliant way to show someone what you mean. They can be short or long, and they are a perfect way to start your article. Even a well-placed metaphor can work as an example.
4 - Imagine a dinner party
Don’t get stuck in long sentences or difficult language. Tell the story a bit like you would if you were at a dinner party. And try to make sure it contains some anecdotal value. That is what all guests will remember months after the party has ended.
5 - (Try to) copy stand up
Skilled stand-up-comedians are great storytellers. Not only are they good at emphasizing the right parts of a story – turning something boring into fun - they are also good at creating and using a main thread through their act. These are tricks you can use in your writing when you create and don’t report (see tip #2).
Robert Långström, Content Director & Storybuilder at Spoon