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Surprise Your Reader: Tell Stories

If you’re writing a book, and especially if you’re building a platform for reaching an audience who will respond to your message and, later, your book, you should also consider yourself a storyteller.

Even if you’re not writing fiction.

We live for stories and, according to the latest neuroscience research, it’s stories that affect Broca’s Area, that part of our brain that deals with language and various functions related to cognition and perception.

According to an interesting New York Times essay by author Annie Murphy Paul, stories awaken something essential in us. She writes, “Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.”  Ms. Paul was talking about our need for fiction in our increasingly “nonfiction” age, when people look to publish memoirs, treatises, rants and such in favor of the novel form.

No matter what you’re writing, and it’s probably nonfiction, make sure that you strengthen your chances of connecting with an audience by incorporating stories into your book. You don’t have to make these stories up – if you have something like case studies, you want to treat them as stories in terms of narrative, but don’t change the facts – but you should present your ideas in ways that have a sense of forward motion, suspense and, of course, surprise.

Some modern criticism looks askance at storytelling, as if it’s so “been there, done that” – they don’t realize that storytelling is essential to communication. Sure, many writers over the last century have tried to play with narrative and how we perceive the world, but what we remember about the best of these novels aren’t usually the postmodern pyrotechnics, but the stories and characters that move and surprise us.

And besides, you’re not writing for academics or for critics. You’re writing for your audience, and you want your audience to remember your message. They’ll do that if you give them what every human has wanted since humans began communicating with each other: story.

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2 Responses to “Surprise Your Reader: Tell Stories”

  1. Bob March 20, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    excellent post! Every book, especially non-fiction benefits from the story – behind the story. It brings power and connection to the message. Good job Bob, to keep that in front of us.

  2. Anonymous March 21, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    I love reading articles, books, posts that tell a story. It livens things up and makes it fun to engage my mind in the content–makes it feel more 3-dimensional rather than a flat, facts only 2D report. Thanks for sharing your insights!

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