Last week, a good friend of mine sent me this link to an ebook called The Storyteller’s Art: How Not to Bore Your Reader to Sleep, Tears, or Homicide, by Francis W. Porretto. The book has many good ideas and much good advice for writers. I haven’t read the whole thing, but so far, so good. You might not agree with everything Porretto says, and you might not like his writing style (but then again, maybe you will).
At the beginning of the book, the author says something that I agree with wholeheartedly:
Not everyone knows how to tell a decent story. The demise of the oral tradition, both in fiction and in social history, is part of that. Time was, everyone was expected to be able to tell a story properly. Of course, that included stories composed by others; not everyone can compose an original story….
Storytelling is a necessary skill. If you’re in business at any level, whether as an office drone or a tradesman, you need to be able to tell a story – granted, a non-fiction one, but a story nonetheless. That ability is critical to effective communication with your customer: i.e., whoever pays your salary or your invoices. Not because you need to deceive him, but because the correct sequencing of events, the correct delineation of causation, and the correct placement of emphasis, is vital to conveying a message of any sort. A plumber needs it quite as much as a CEO.
What resonates with me are the following points:
- Storytelling is a necessary skill
- The ability to tell a story is critical to effective communication with your customer
- the correct sequencing of events, the correct delineation of causation, and the correct placement of emphasis, is vital to conveying a message of any sort [BTW, can you find the grammatical error in this sentence?]
For the next three days, I will take one of these elements and expand on it. Let’s begin with the first.
Storytelling is a necessary writing skill
As the title of this post says: All writing is storytelling. I believe that with all my heart. Whether you’re telling an actual story, or writing a biography, or a memoir, or even a sales page for computers, you must be able to grab your reader. You need to accomplish the goal you have established for this piece of writing.
As Porretto says in the excerpt, “If you’re in business at any level…you need to be able to tell a story – granted, a non-fiction one, but a story nonetheless.” Writing isn’t just a bunch of words and sentences coming one after the other. Give your reader a mental image of what you’re trying to convey, in a natural progression of ideas and facts/events.
To take the computer sales page as an example, you could say: “Buy this computer. It has a 64-bit microprocessor and it comes with Microsoft Office.” (Snore.) However, if you want to actually sell a computer or two (your goal), try the mental image thing:
Imagine a new computer – your new computer – delivered directly to your home by a technician who has come to set you up right away. With its powerful, 64-bit microprocessor and the latest version of Microsoft Office, you’ll be up and ready to roll in the time it takes to make a cup of coffee!
Do you see the story I’ve just told? Basically, it’s:
A guy buys a computer. He sits in his living room waiting for it to be delivered. When the technician shows up at his door, the guy makes himself an espresso, carries it to his desk, and starts using his new computer without missing a beat.
Give your reader a personal vision
If you were in the market for a new computer, you’d be able to see yourself as that guy. You’d be able to envision yourself sitting down at your work table with a brand new, top-of-the-line computer generating lots of business – or writing lots of best-selling books!
Allow the reader to see him- or herself in the picture. Even in a novel, even in a biography, even in your memoir: your reader must relate to the characters in some way; you must engage him or her in the story.
That, my dear readers, is storytelling at its best.
Descriptive writing is necessary for effective Storytelling
The concepts I’ve introduced in this post are discussed and taught in much greater detail in my module on Storytelling in Wake Up Your Prose: Description Unpacked. Why not consider buying the course?
Along with my module on Storytelling, I’ve included modules on Show; Tell; Analogy, Metaphor, and Simile; and much more. Each module delivers new tools to add to your descriptive writing arsenal. After taking this course, you will be a more effective writer, and you will wow your readers as well as those all-important magazine and House editors!
Go on over to my sales page, or drop me an email if you have any more questions about the course.
And as always,
P.S. Here’s the link again to the sales page.