When I was little, my grandma used to read to me every night before I went to bed from a classic children’s book which I really liked for some strange reason (it was kind of weird).It wasn’t an extraordinary story, but hearing it every night made me feel good. I think it was because it allowed me to imagine the story’s characters and the environment in a million different ways each time I heard it. Aren’t grandparents the best storytellers ever?
But why do we like stories so much?
Is it because we grew up with them? Maybe. Stories are delightful, they make us feel connected to the writer. Most importantly, they make us want to stay with the author until the end.
No one can deny the fact that we need stories in our lives.
Stories are thousands of years old, but they are still the most efficient form of communication today. I assume that stories will not go away, especially with the Internet so full of content that looks and feels duplicated.
Storytelling is strongly related to content marketing and is a great way to stand out from the crowd. In today’s overcrowded market, being different is a must. You need to create articles that are distinctive, that have a story, and don’t just provide cold information and facts.
Did you know there is a psychological explanation as to why we love stories
Yes, that’s right. It’s all in our brains, and if our brains are not engaged from the very first moments we begin to read an article, then we will ignore it, since it failed to make an impact on us.
Cortisol and oxytocin are two neurochemicals that our brains produce. The first one makes us pay attention to a story we’re reading or listening to. The second one keeps us engaged with the story. If you want to become a better storyteller, you need to create stories that will produce these effects on the brain.
This research, “Narrative Persuasion in Legal Settings: What’s the Story?”, explains how stories are capable of being much more influential than facts. Stories create experiences that facts can’t. Words and facts are boring, unless you wrap them in a story.
Understanding storytelling is the first step towards becoming a better storyteller
First things first.
You need to understand the basics of storytelling before heading down this road. It’s not hard at all, you just need to do a little bit of research and then start writing.
For a story to be successful, it needs to be addressed to the right audience. Find out who that audience is for you. Children’s books use a certain language, medical books have their own jargon, and so on. You need to find a proper language and a voice that your audience can relate to.
Use descriptive words
Remember when you were in primary school and the teacher gave you an assignment to write a story about what you did during the weekend? The main thing the teacher emphasized was the fact that she wanted you to use as many adjectives as possible so that you can create a beautiful story.
How would stories be like without adjectives? They would be just facts, and we already know that facts are boring.
Of course, you don’t have to add an adjective after every noun. Instead, you should use verbs, adverbs, or any other words that evoke certain emotions and help the reader picture the story. Verbs like “smell”, “imagine”, “ran”, “open” and adverbs like “loudly”, “slowly” are just a few examples that will make your brain interested in a story.
You know how a certain scent reminds you of a place or a person? This is exactly what happens when you read content that contains words related to the five senses. Your brain works in mysterious ways.
Start your article with a story
Here, I will give you an example.
You’ve probably been in this situation. You were just randomly browsing the Internet when you suddenly saw a headline that really caught your eye. You clicked to read the article, but the beginning of the article is…a story. Maybe you thought it was weird. But you still gave it a chance because you assumed the story was there to make a point.
And it did.
So you keep reading the story, trying not to breath or move, while you do your best to capture the essence of the words. Your heart starts beating faster and faster as you approach the ending of the story. You don’t want it to end, because you’re so fascinated by the world you just created in your head. Then it’s over. And you think to yourself “that’s such a valid point of view”.
This was my exact reaction after I read one of Len’s from Groove articles from their customer support blog.
By starting your article with a story that makes absolutely no sense at first as to why it should be in the article, and ending it by making a valid point to the article you’re writing, you will blow your readers’ minds.
Tell a story that people already know about
If you don’t want to include your personal stories in your articles, then you can definitely use other stories. I’m talking about well-known movies, TV shows, or even books. You have unlimited options here (by the way, I’m preparing an article about House of Cards, so make sure you stay tuned for that one).
A while ago, I wrote this article about How a content writer’s mind works, and at one point I made a reference to the TV show Criminal Minds. I’m sure you have some shows that you love as well, and you can definitely find meaning in them if you did deep enough.
That is in fact one of the key characteristics of a good storyteller: the ability to see below the surface of a normal situation or fact, and extract some meaningful lessons out of it.
Do you spend enough time reading?
Reading is good for your imagination, and it can also help you develop certain abilities. Reading is like watching someone putting theory into practice.
Novels are the first thing that you should put on your reading list. Even though literature is not quite similar to the content you need to produce for the Internet, nor do they have the same structure, it represents the basics of becoming a better storyteller.
Write at least once a day
Writing is like a muscle you need to exercise everyday.
I’m sure you have a few different bloggers or influencers whose articles you read pretty much every day. Aside from the valuable information they provide, you also like them because they have a certain style of writing you enjoy. They obviously got better in time, and it’s most likely because they had a lot of practice.
You have plenty of time to discover what type of style makes you unique. I know this is a no-brainer, but don’t try to copy someone else’s style. Experiment with writing, and see which style suits you best.
Treat your stories like they are conversations
In books, the author is not directly talking to the reader, he or she is just narrating. But in today’s digital world, when you’re writing an article, you need to use the “you” pronoun. A lot.
Your articles are not supposed to be monologues. They need to be more like conversations. Ask your audience questions, and even if you may think it’s weird, because they can’t answer while you’re typing, remember they can answer them once they are done reading your article. If you make the article all about you, they will ignore you.
How to get 300 readers for your articles
Hopefully, you now know more about how to become a better storyteller. The only thing that you need to do after you publish your articles is to attract readers.
What do you do to get better at storytelling?