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What Makes a Great Story?

Whether you are tackling a non-fiction book to support your business or a novel that is going to take the world by storm, you are well-advised to develop your storytelling skills. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, we all know that stories typically have a beginning, a middle, and an end. But a story is not just a chronology of events. It’s something that triggers an emotional reaction, and it provides the audience with an inducement to change.

In my model of the world, really good books aren’t just books that make us think something. Great books are books that make us feel something.

What makes a story really good, though is the concept of struggle

I remember bawling my eyes out when I read Little Women at about age 13 — oh my goodness there was so much to move my heart in that book! There was a huge amount of struggle depicted in those pages – and it kept me (and countless others) glued to the story.

I’m sure you have read a book that made you feel something – and by the way, it might be a humorous book…another one of my favourites is Stephen Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. Priceless.

So, my challenge to you, as someone working on a book, is to make your readers feel something. That is partly about the way you write your book, but it is also partly about the stories you choose to tell.

Giving your readers a relentless list of informative fact is not going to make them feel something.

But telling a story and then providing information relating to the story will definitely increase the impact your book will make in the world. Malcolm Gladwell does this exceedingly well.

And going back to the question of who your ideal reader is, if you’re clear about who that reader is, you can become more aware of what is important to your reader. What they care about. What they value. And you are going to use that information respectfully as you write your book. Knowing who your reader is will help you tell the parts of your story that are going to resonate with your reader.

This is a skill we develop with practice.

Now, sometimes we start with our story because it’s just such a darned good one, and then we go looking for an audience, which is great too. But 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. And if you’ve told stories in your book that relate to your ideal reader’s world, and that touch upon the emotional aspects of their reality, you stand a good chance of becoming known as a fabulous writer who writes great books.

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