How to Tell a Story: Make It About People

Which would you rather read: A story about a mountain or a story about a how a climber reached the mountaintop? A mountain is just a pointy rock until humans build a village next to it, or try to climb it. Then it becomes something more – a foreboding, moody presence that has the power to destroy life.

The most interesting stories are not about things. They’re about people – their emotions, their struggles and how they interact with the world. That’s true of classic novels like Moby Dick, Frankenstein and 1984, but it also applies to marketing. If your client wants you to write engaging content about its products, don’t get hung up on describing whatever it is your client is selling. Instead, tell a story that illustrates how people benefit from using those products.

Digging Deep for Ideas

If you’re writing about something that’s familiar – glue, for example – it’s easy to come up with ideas that appeal to a broad audience, like:

“3 Ways Wood Glue Can Save You Money on Furniture Repairs”


“Rainy Day Fun: Keep Antsy Kids Busy with Macaroni, Glue, and Construction Paper”

But what if you’re writing about doodads that appeal to a niche audience? Where do you begin, if you have to write about, say, Bunsen burners? First, if your only experience with Bunsen burners was in a high school chemistry class, you need to do some research. Who buys these, who uses them – and in what type of labs? You may need to talk to a chemist to find out why people would choose one burner over another.

Once you really understand how to talk about the product in context, you can begin crafting a story that people will connect with – like how Robert Bunsen’s ambition changed the way chemists work and inspired new generations to pursue their dreams, too.

Creating a Need

Sometimes, people don’t know they have a need until someone comes along and points it out. For example, one of the most popular toys in modern history – the Slinky – is nothing more than a metal coil. But well-crafted TV commercials showed children looking delighted as they watched their Slinky toys “walk” down stairs, making the sound that only a Slinky can make. And those commercials embedded in children’s brains a strong desire to own one of these things.

The commercials weren’t about the Slinky. They were about togetherness and joy. Whatever it is you’re trying to promote for your client, your audience wants to understand how it applies to their lives. Offer audiences a story, a narrative that reflects an everyday situation or an extraordinary tale, and you’ll do more than appeal to the people in your audience – you’ll draw them in.

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