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What’s a Story and How Do You Write a Good One?

A lot of book and writing experts talk a lot about the importance of a good story these days and I love that this is part of our conversation. I have a lot of admiration for a good storyteller and it’s not a skill everybody can easily bring to a high level of proficiency.

A story typically has a beginning, a middle, and an end. So far so good. But some of the books I help people write, and the books I edit for publication, have those three parts in place except they’ve found their way to a pretty good chronology of events, rather than a pretty good story.

A story is not just a chronology of events. It’s something that triggers an emotional reaction, and it provides the audience with an opportunity to change. It references our sensory world – what we see, hear, feel, smell, and intuit. It involves an exchange with our environment. It involves surprises.

So, in other words, when you think back to the really great books you’ve read that have left a lasting impression, I’m willing to bet that they haven’t been books that simply made you think something; they have made you feel something.

The Importance of a Good Story

Giving your readers a whole whack of important information is not going to make them feel something. But if you weave into your narrative the concepts of struggle and adversity, mixed in with the concepts of triumph and celebration, you are going to capture their attention.

I remember bawling my eyes out when I was about 13 years old reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Oh, my goodness, there was so much in that book that moved my heart!

It helps to know who your ideal reader is, by the way. The more clarity you have about who that reader is, the more powerfully you can weave in emotional content that will appeal to them. What is important to your reader? What do they care about? What do they value? What is going to resonate with your reader?

This is a skill we develop with practice.

Sometimes we start with our story because it’s just such a darned good one, and then we go looking for an audience, which works, too. But if this is a book that is going to support your business interests, then it’s important to have the same audience as your client base. Plus, when it comes time to market your book, you need to know who will resonate with that book so you can target your marketing efforts, maximize sales, send people to your website, etc.

Storytelling is an important skillset. But remember that for most of us, it’s a skill we develop with time and practise. Be patient with yourself—and keep an eye out for opportunities to improve. Your book will thank you. And so will your readers!

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