The Human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories. —Mary Catherine
Storytelling is truly an art. A tale well told hooks most people.
Every good story has a few vital components:
- A clear theme the reader can easily follow
- A compelling hook that compels them to read on
- Description that uses all five senses, engaging the reader sensually as well as mentally.
- Dialogue that gives the characters vivid personalities to add texture the story
- Add a good plot, and you’ve got a page-turner
What if you’re writing non-fiction? This was a question that came up in a workshop I gave in New Mexico this summer. Many were surprised to learn that in writing nonfiction, such as a memoir, a how-to or even a self-help book, much of the above still applies.
Nonfiction books have a main characteristic or topic. Just like characters in fictional story, these elements become clearer as the story or teaching unfolds.
To make nonfiction compelling, know your audience before you start writing. This helps you to use language appropriate to the age group, education level, gender, or specific interest of your readers. It also makes for more enjoyable reading.
Adding anecdotes and providing examples can demonstrate points that may be unclear and also enhance your writing by providing the reader with a diversion. You reach more readers when you approach your topic from more than one vantage point (didactic and anecdotal).
Did you notice I’ve said nothing about “good” writing? Recently I met a successful photographer who had some stories she wanted to write, but she was concerned that she might not be a good enough writer. How many great stories we would miss out on if they could only be told by “good writers!” Fortunately, editors exist to solve this problem.
Editors can make even the worst writer look good. For many editors, good stories poorly written are like a feast they look forward to as much as a great meal at their favorite restaurant. We all have unique talents that contribute to the whole.
Good stories deserve to be told. If you have one, tell it.