Skip to content
Nonfiction Writing > Academic Writing Tips > 7 Reasons Writers Are Fools if They Don’t Tell Stories

7 Reasons Writers Are Fools if They Don’t Tell Stories

7 Reasons Writers Are Fools if They Don't Tell StoriesDon’t be a foolish writer! Here, a publication coach describes the reasons writers need to tell stories, and explains why story-telling is “the most important job for writers.”

“Telling stories – and telling them well – is probably the single most important job facing any writer,” says the Publication Coach, Daphne Gray-Grant. “And guess what? Stories aren’t just for novelists. They’re for everyone from the CEO to his or her most junior communications staffer.”

Good stories — and good writers — are concrete, sticky, and memorable. To learn more about writing non-fiction that sells, read Damn! Why Didn’t I Write That?: How Ordinary People are Raking in $100,000.00 or More Writing Nonfiction Books & How You Can Too!

And, here are Gray-Grant’s reasons non-fiction writers must master the task of story-telling…

7 Reasons Writers Are Fools if They Don’t Tell Stories

Here are Gray-Grant’s seven reasons why writers need to work hard at telling stories in non-fiction writing:

1. Stories have a natural rhythm. Tell a story and you’ll automatically start with the most interesting material. At the same time, you’ll give details exactly where they belong and you’ll end by reinforcing the key point you want to make. This kind of structure gives you a big, paint-by-numbers approach to your writing. It makes writing easier and more enjoyable.

2. Stories humanize the realities of the business world. Have you ever sat through speeches and started to drift off into ZZZZZ-land as the speakers rambled on about statistics or core values? And, yet, didn’t you snap to attention when they suddenly told you a story about something that happened in the office or, better yet, a story about their own non-work lives? We’re all hardwired to love stories. Growing up and getting a serious job doesn’t change that one iota.

3. Stories carry a sense of momentum; they have their own natural tension. The middle of a good story leaves the reader wondering, “Yeah, and what happened, next?” As a writer, isn’t that exactly what you want — readers desperate for your next sentence?

4. Stories are sticky, or, in other words, memorable. I heard a radio interview with career coach Barbara Sher, author of I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It. This woman is a masterful speaker and I’ll never forget her story about a cab driver who wanted to become a cake baker. Sher advised the driver to launch her career by baking “surprise” and anonymous cakes for major public events. Turns out, the woman succeeded by having one of her cakes cause a big (and positive) sensation at an event in Chicago. While I wouldn’t advise that approach now, post 9/11, I highly recommend telling memorable stories. That I remembered this cake anecdote for 16 years should be a testament to the theory.

5. Stories force writers to use concrete language. People get into writing trouble when they start using too many abstract words. You know what I mean — Superman’s motto of “truth, justice, and the American Way” is a great example of abstract language. Instead, better writers talk about things you can touch, taste, smell and hear — concrete words. Such language helps create visual images in the readers’ minds. If I say the word “association” do you get a clear visual image? Probably not! But if I say, desk, or flower or dog, your mind’s eye likely creates a picture. Add even a simple verb — such as, “sits,” “smells” or “barks” and the picture is clearer. Stories will keep you in the world of the concrete. Strong visual images = good writing.

6. Stories will help make writing more believable. I don’t know about you but I’ve always been astonished by the number of movies and TV shows that make a big deal about being based on true stories. (Frankly, I always think good fiction is more amazing!) But there’s something in the human psyche that loves the concept of being true to life. Tell your own stories and you’ll be satisfying a basic human need.

7. Stories allow people to persuade themselves of the point you’re trying to make. You then simply become the person who is presenting the evidence. And the better your stories, the more persuasive you will be.

Thoughts or questions about telling stories in your writing? Please comment below!

Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of the popular book 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a free weekly newsletter on her website; subscribe at The Publication Coach.

Gray-Grant also contributed 8 Stress Management Tips for Writers and 5 Ways to Salvage Writing Disasters, here on Quips & Tips for Successful Writers.

Need encouragement? Stay in touch!
Get my free weekly email

Midlife Blossoms: The Upside of an Uprooted Life

* This blog contains affiliate links. If you click a link and buy the product, I'll earn a small commission, but you won't be charged a penny more. Thank you!


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

7 thoughts on “7 Reasons Writers Are Fools if They Don’t Tell Stories”

  1. Daphne,

    I can’t tell you what perfect timing your comment is! I’m giving a presentation on blogging at SFU tonight, and am a bit nervous. I love your words: “Don’t underestimate what you have to offer” — they are EXACTLY what I needed to hear.

    Thank you!

    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..Getting Your Children’s Book Published – 4 Ways to Increase Creativity and Motivation =-.

  2. Lawrie: Talking about yourself is almost NEVER boring to other people. Don’t under-estimate what you have to offer!! -daphne

  3. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hey, Christine, my husband was reading “Made to Stick” — he loved it. But he didn’t tell me that they talked about storytelling…I can definitely see how it would make your point, article, or service sticky!

    My problem is, I don’t like to talk about myself. It’s boring! I need to start taking my own advice, and dig into my life for stories that make me sticky…

    Thanks for being here!

    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..How to Find Online Writing Markets and Write for the Web =-.

  4. Julie - Fine Tooth Comb

    During my years teaching high school English, I often used personal illustrations/stories to awaken sleepy, uninterested students. If I sensed a lack of interest, I was quick to insert a personal illustration that related to the topic at hand. The students perked up every time.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking article!

  5. Interesting blogpost, I think what you write is so true. You might also like to read ‘Made to stick’ by Chip and Dan Heath. They write that for an idea to stick it needs to be unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and a story.

  6. I just read an article on a blog marketing website that talked about how this same same principle applies to blog writing–it seems that adding a storyline is crucial to all forms of writing!
    .-= Michelle Salater´s last blog post ..Emerging Social Media Trends: Interview with Hillel Fuld =-.

  7. Reading a good story in a non-fiction piece usually helps me connect with the experience. Stories tend to highlight common emotions, sensory experiences and universal themes so I can relate to the situation. Once that happens, I’m hooked.
    .-= Jean Sarauer´s last blog post ..57 Smokin’ Tips to Thaw Blogging Brain Freeze =-.