Telling a Story: The Object of Almost Any Writing Endeavor

Long before there was writing, there was the story.

For millenia the story was delivered by oral tradition…passed through social space from person to person and through time from one generation to the next.   The development of writing, a much more recent phenomenon, just created the need for more disk storage space.

In order to be effective, writing needs to be organized…to have an organizing principle.  The best way to organize your ideas and thoughts is to think of what you want to communicate as a story.

Most writing, whether it be business, creative, scholarly, or journalistic, attempts to convey ideas and images to the readers.  In business you try to explain a new product or service in terms of benefits the product will give to customers in particular situations.   In journalistic writing, you tell a story in reverse order, starting with the most recent headline and working backwards.   A student essay on a short story or novel has to put forth a thesis and then support it by weaving a string of evidence to support it, often following the unfolding of the novel being written about.

So when you have a writing project before you and you get “stuck” or just can’t think of where to begin, think of how you would tell a story to a typical member of your target audience as if they were sitting right there in the room with you.

  • What is going to hook their attention at the beginning story?  A little known fact?   A bizarre picture that you paint?   A dramatic feature of your new product?
  • Will you tell the story chronologically?  Or do you build a string of increasingly impactful images or quotations?
  • What lasting impression do you want to leave with your reader by the conclusion of your story?

By asking yourself these types of questions at the outset, you should be able to develop an outline or diagram (road map) of how you want to organize the piece.   Some people find it helpful to jot this down before they write.

How will you know you’ve told a good story?   Just keep reading it to yourself, even if the story is not finished.   You’ll develop an instinct for when the story is good and when it seems to be getting stuck.   If the flow isn’t right, make some adjustments.  Then read it again.  It’s an iterative process.

Remember the power of telling a story.   It will never let you down.