We all love a good story. From our early years of bedtime tales, to favourite novels, case studies of how we solved ‘that’ problem and books full of helpful advice. We make meaning from stories. In connecting to the hero or heroine and their conflicts, we identify with them. Their story becomes our story, and we want to know how it turned out.
Not all non-fiction books lend themselves to stories. If you wanted to know how to master pivot tables in Excel, a story or two of accounting disasters and dinner with the auditor might not be relevant, if all the reader wants to know is how to – step by step.
At the other extreme are books which are full of case studies, which to be honest bore me. That is just me. I like a mixture of good old facts, stories and how to. I like to flick through things depending on my needs and mood. On the other hand, I have friends who love loads of case studies.
What often happens is as subject matter experts when we first write, we can be a little dry. Even if you do write beautifully and I am sure that you do, facts need to put on their sparkly pants to bring them alive.
How can you weave in a story or two into each of your chapters?
Cast your mind back to the last time a friend asked you for some help. What happened, did you say ‘well, yeah what you need to do is blah blah’ or did you elaborate and recall a tale of something similar that gets your point across? Chances are, and my fingers are crossed, that you told an urban tale of derring do.
An urban tale of derring do is a tale which is based on fact, shows courage, but which might be a teensy weensy bit embellished. Embellished in the nicest possible way, so as to convey your message and to connect the friend who is asking your advice to the solution.
What I mean is, imagine a friend is telling you of his/her diet disasters, they are bloated, tired and overweight. You may recount your similar failures at all diets under the sun. In telling your story, you might then talk about how you met a nutritionist who did hair analysis, and told you a whole raft of information about what was triggering your bloated tummy. When you followed her advice, the bloating went. You accompany the triumph with a pat of your now flat tummy and pull out your waistband to demonstrate that you have also dropped a dress or trouser size.
I am not sure what kind of learner you are, but I need to get a visual, a rhyme or some kind of emotional stimulus to make a fact stick.
If you are a natural story teller, chances are that you will, in your first draft be telling stories as you go along. The only thing here is to remember to weave the most relevant stories in and remember to close them off. No one likes a dangler.
If you are not a natural storyteller, then the easiest way is to write your draft and then come back and consider what stories you could tell where and why. Once you have your list of stories, you can work them in.
In both cases, your editor will be able to help you weave in the stories so that they flow and convey just what is needed.
The best way is to imagine you are at crashed on the sofa with a friend, cups of hot steaming tea (or wine) and you are just chilling and chatting