Some storytelling tips came to my mind the other day when I was thinking about how brands can create better content, the type of blog or social media posts that people will share and recommend.
I’ve been using some of them but haven’t shared them with content writers who struggle to stay original or create works that set them apart from the crowd.
I particularly like this one:
Write the type of content only you can write.
Okay, that’s one out of 7. Let’s do this.
You’re about to find ways to transform boring content into an interesting piece.
How to make a post interesting: 7 Storytelling Tips
I used to ghostwrite fiction, and I understand a little about the process of crafting compelling stories.
So, let’s steal some storytelling tips from fiction writers.
You can practice the exercise with me using any topic you like.
I’m going to use a post as an example throughout this post. The post’s title is “how to write your first novel.”
You can go ahead and pick a topic that interests you too.
You have a topic?
Good. Let’s start
#1. Who is your character or hero?
Every story has a hero. Your content should have one, too.
It doesn’t have to be anything grand or spectacular, like superman or mother confessor.
For instance, I used to answer questions on Quora, and I would imagine the person asking questions as the hero of my post or content.
So I want to write a post about “how to write your first novel.” I have to imagine a hero for that. I simply visualize someone going through that problem, someone who would find my post very useful.
This is who I think:
A teenager, 16 years old, she has just finished reading all the Harry Potter series and wants to write too. The desire is burning in her chest so bad. She has brown hair and green eyes.
She is the hero of the content I want to create. I think her specific problem would be solved after reading the post. Therefore, everything I want to write will be addressed to her.
The essence of this step is that the hero will determine
- Word choice
- The things to include in the writing process
- The headline
- And even where to share the content
What if someone who comes across the post later isn’t a teenager?
That’s their job.
Whoever comes across the post later will decide if they want to read the post or not. Once I write and publish, my job is half-done. The other job is sharing it and ensuring the right people find it. So, if anyone else clicks on it, it is their job to decide if they want to read it or not.
The importance of this step:
- Ensures creativity and originality
- It improves marketing strategy. You can’t appeal to everyone, so by being specific about your hero. You save the time of focusing on the wrong people
#2. What is the obstacle?
There is no hero without accomplishment. So what is the one challenge our hero is set to accomplish?
Write one simple sentence. Not two, just one.
You choose the “obstacle” because there is no obstacle without the goal. Moreover, the readers are more interested in the solutions, not you reminding them what they want to achieve.
The obstacle of the hero of my post is “procrastinaton” and “lack of creative writing skills.”
After reading my post on “how to write your first novel,” the girl should start writing her first book.
Your post should tackle one problem, not a hundred. If everything you write doesn’t fall under one question, you’re doing content writing wrongly.
The first step answers the question: who is this for? This step here defines what problem they are facing.
Choose one out of all the problems. If you have more than one, create a new blog post or content. It is hard to read or enjoy contents that spread to a thousand things in five or 20 minutes.
#3. Why should our hero trust you to help?
In other words, why should the reader care?
In practice, as a content writer, you are a stranger who people don’t care about. Of course, they want to give you their time and attention, but you have to earn it.
But your headline and introductions often say you have no idea or the reader shouldn’t waste their time.
It is time to restrategize and convince the readers or they bounce or ignore the post.
There are a lot of ways you to answer that, but overall, you can start by providing answers to these three questions:
- First, why are you the right person to talk about this?
- A promise: briefly promise them a specific and outrageously useful thing that solves their problem.
- Show proof that you have done your research. This is where you link to credible sources or places early in the post.
- I have been a ghostwriter for six years, and in my experience, I’ve met a few first-time novelists who are not sure if they can write themselves. In this post, I will be talking about storytelling tips.
- In this post, you will find ideas and methods used by bestselling authors to trick themselves into writing their books. Spoiler: it’s hard for everyone.
- Every year, thousands of writers come together to participate in Nanowrimo. The idea is to write for a whole month, which means writers worldwide think consistency and accountability are important.
The last point is just an example. I couldn’t find hardcore facts or statistics for the sample, but that one still hits differently.
By the way, the last tip in this post will help you with every step explained here.
#4. Something has to go wrong before it goes right
What makes stories interesting is that people love the hero, and they don’t want to see her go through pain. They want to see her win, but first, the author must make the hero thick through challenges.
As a content writer, write about the pains a problem can cause. In this section, you look at the problems in a broader sense. What could go wrong? Paint it in words.
If you don’t write your first novel, if you postpone it, will the feeling ever go away? Will you ever stop feeling that it’s something you want to do? Ten years from now, you will still ache to write, but then it could be too difficult or too late because you’re neck-deep in a job, traveling around the world, or raising kids.
You’re trying to create a picture of what will happen if the readers don’t take action.
In many contents, the writers usually use headlines such as:
- Why you should write your first story
- Why visit Cuba
- Should you buy sound insulators?
The readers already know the dangers of what they will be missing out on.
But before you offer the solution, paint a clearer picture or a reminder. The point is to let the reader grow a little more before telling them the solution. The readers might be engrossed in the content if you do it well enough.
Using these storytelling & writing tips can convince your readers that you really care about their problems.
- Make this part brief because the readers already know some, if not all the whys
- Follow it up with a comprehensive solution. You can’t just expand on a problem and leave the readers to figure out the answers.
#5. Ease of reading: format and anchors.
No one likes content that isn’t easy to read from top to bottom.
You can do this in appearance (format), transitions, and or use other storytelling tips.
In appearance, use
- Short paragraphs (3–4 lines per paragraph)
- Use transition words, such as moreover, therefore, so far. Another example is “let’s begin.” The best I’ve seen is “Let’s begin our story with a little wine.” (Source: HBR, link below).
- End the paragraph with questions or sentences that push the readers to read the next paragraph. You can as well connect one paragraph with the next. For example, when you end a paragraph with “the perfect solution isn’t reading,” you have forced the reader to ask, “Then what?”
In storytelling tips
I have used some in this post:
“By the way, the last tip in this post will help in every step explained here,” and “Link below.”
They’re subtle, and the readers might not notice it initially, but they’re there in the unconscious mind to make them wait for the last point.
As a storyteller, you reread your content and edit for easy flow. Then, let them read and glide down the write-up or post. You can effectively do that if you know what it means to tell a great story.
#6. Writing content only you can write
Write the content only you can write.
I know thousands of writers out there could write better than me. But at the same time, if I am patient enough and write something that means a lot to me, no one else can write the way I will do.
Each writer has their style. It is innate and unique, like fingerprints. You can’t write how Stephen King would write, and I can’t write how Jon Morrow would write.
So one of the best storytelling tips is you. You are unique. Let that reflect in what you write.
If you are writing for a brand, take a day and reflect on “what make our brand different when it comes to content.”
How can you lean on what makes your writing yours?
There are a ton of ways to write a content that is so unique
- Use personal anecdotes
- Study your own work. What are the things that are being repeated?
- You need quality time. Time to write each piece and time in terms of how long you have been writing and improving.
It is a long journey of discovery and learning.
And that brings us to the last point.
#7. Experiment like a lab scientist
Many of your favorite fiction authors admitted that they have been fascinated by other great authors at some point. You, too, can do the same.
Take 3 pieces of content that you like the most. No, don’t go around looking for them. You should remember at least three posts you like. I don’t mean the topics. I mean the way the author or content creator presents the ideas.
Okay, you can check your bookmarks to pick and add one or two posts to the list.
For instance, these are my top 3 posts
- Jon Morrow: How I wrote posts that touched the heart of more than 6 million people
- Lauren Holliday: How to write a blog posts
- HBR: The Making of An Expert
Have you picked your favorites?
Good. Now go over each of them and write 3 things you like about them.
I will go first.
Jon Morrow’s post:
- The introduction is powerful. It captures me instantly
You know that feeling you get right before you publish a post?
The angel on one shoulder says you’ve written a post of enormous importance and depth, one that will change your readers’ lives forever. Meanwhile, the devil on the other shoulder calls you a halfwit with the writing talent of a chimpanzee doped on acid.
Well, it was a few days before Christmas in 2009, and the devil was winning.
- He reveals the trick of his craft which is nice
A little secret:
The reason this headline works especially well is that each part is also a highly desirable benefit of its own. People dream about quitting their jobs and moving to paradise. Topping it off with getting paid to change the world is just irresistible.
The opening sentence, “After all, that’s the dream, right?” also connects directly to the headline, responding directly to the three promises. I call this style of opening the “Conversation Starter,” because it uses a conversational question composed of powerful words to bridge the gap between the promise of the headline and the rest of the post.
- The post has a bigger theme than writing, even though the post is about how he writes.
When noticing the things you like, they don’t have to be something big or outrageous. They should be personal — What you notice, what makes you stop reading and nod your head.
By the way, this process lets you acknowledge the things you appreciate as a writer. It is an indirect way of noticing or admitting the things you want your work to look like.
Soon enough, I might adopt some of the things I notice into my own style.
Now, you’re doing that for 3 writers. You are on your way to transforming your writing skills in a short time.
These storytelling tips can transform dull content into a lively and beautiful masterpiece. Of course, you don’t have to use all of them at once, but I will recommend the last step for every copywriter searching for that magic that could transform their work.
While I wait for your comments and shares, I’ll be editing the post: How to write your first novel.
Wish me luck.