Imagine the scene on the 20 May 1604, at the Duck and Drake. Five conspirators gathered together to discuss how to assassinate King James and replace him with Princess Elizabeth. You a fly on the wall being privy to this most daring deed. What might you make of it? Would you be in agreement or against such a plan? How would you connect to the values of the dastardly plotters?
What if you, the fly, were able to follow each man on his journey to create what might have been a catastrophic event. What would you report? From which persons perspective? How would you craft the tale of derring do?
If you were a journalist you would, I imagine, stick to the truth as far as you were able, given the evidence available. If you were writing fiction, you would embellish the story and craft a tale to entertain the reader, all the way to the end – a fully quartered body distributed to “the four corners of the kingdom”.
As a writer of non-fiction you are neither journalist nor novelist, yet stories told in just the right way will add a certain something to your book.
Stories in non-fiction are a great way to get a point across, by enabling the reader to make an emotional connection to the tale that you are telling.
You can share:-
- Real life experiences – yours
- Real life experiences – others
When telling stories it’s important that you steal from our fiction friends. Remember that we humans live ‘stories’ every day and then when our eyes close we dream in stories. Stories are what connects us.
- Read fiction so that you can learn how to write stories
- Find stories that resonate with you. Ask why they do. Strong storytelling compels the mind to listen
- Remember that every story has a beginning, middle and end, so if you start a story in a chapter, remember to end it
- Every story has a turning point – something that changes the protagonist – this is what your reader will identify with. Ask what the turning point in your story is?
Each of us has a story that can move others to emotion and action. As you learn the skill of storytelling, you will be able to tell stories that compel your readers to ‘stay tuned’ to the adventure. An adventure that could include elements that identify you, them and the action you want them to take.
Books speak to both heart and head and to connect to your reader. you are looking at how you convey a sense of shared values and how you build trust. Well written stories will engage people in way that helps them to interpret why they should change their world. It provides a level of motivation to change and take relevant action.
Going back to Guy
His story might cover how he came to choose to express his values, to the extent that he was willing to risk his life to change the way that the country and government were being run. Your focus might be on his childhood, his upbringing and various choice points he made throughout his life. The story of his life would communicate and help your reader to understand why he acted as he did.
His story would then share the reasons he acted as he did ‘in the now.’ He had a challenge to face and was determined that this was the only way. More choices. You can see clearly what he wanted his outcome to be and what his vision of the future was.
In connecting the back story to the now, you can explain why he was called to make the choices he did, what his challenges were and how they were overcome.
Of course sadly Guy’s tale didn’t have a happy ending for him – but you get my point. Challenge – choice – outcome.
Adding relevant stories
When you have the outline for your book and have chosen the chapter framework, now is the time to consider which stories where.
- Ask why would you put that story in?
- How does it link to the rest of the text?
- What action do you want your reader to take once they have read and connected to it?
- How do you want them to feel?
- Identify the challenge, choices and the desired outcome
- Practice reading your stories to colleagues and friends – do they get it?
- Read other authors books who use storytelling and de-construct them so that you can understand why the stories work. Then work out how, you can make yours resonate with your reader.
But most of all listen for the stories that are going on all around you every day – what makes them good stories? What about your stories – who is listening and interacting – ask why?
Happy storytelling and don’t forget to light some sparklers and have a ball.