When I talk about storytelling in my classes I always put an example that I know very well: mine.
I had a difficult childhood and a much worse adolescence. I suffered severe physical and psychological bullying; I fell into an eating disorder and developed a destructive self-talk that almost killed me. Thanks to adult therapy I was able to resolve my traumatic experiences and adopt tools that have allowed me to achieve success in all areas of my life.
I have the word “write” tattooed on my left wrist because writing helped me survive hard times, it became my passion and later my profession. That is why I am a professional writer and copywriter. That is why I am writing this book. That is why we are connected right now.
Told like this, it seems that I solved all my problems years ago, but the reality is that I am still in therapy because I am constantly evolving. In 2017 I decided to share a video telling my story with my community at rosamorel.com. I did not expect the feedback I received in return.
Hundreds of public and private messages reached me telling me their own stories, including from influencers in the world of marketing that I had not spoken to before.
I decided to place the video link in the second email of the welcome sequence that is sent when someone subscribes to my newsletter. My goal was to let new subscribers know how I got to dedicate myself to writing.
Do you know what happened? A mind-blowing response rate of over 70%. People thanking me for the video, also telling me their stories and even asking for quotes to hire me.
There is a HUGE difference between telling a story and describing events.
It is not the same to explain that I studied career A, I was trained with B and C, then I worked in D and ended up collaborating with E, to create my business F; to share with the reader my feelings and motivations.
When I teach long trainings (in master’s degrees or courses for companies), where I can spend 8 to 16 hours with the students, I enjoy asking for one of my favorite exercises.
“I want to know your story. Tell me how you got here ”.
I make it very clear that what I am looking for is a story like a story, not a series of descriptive points. Of course, most of them put their hands to their heads: “Do you want me to write it NOW? I don’t know what to wear! ”.
And is that to develop a good story you have to look within. Because those that excite and convert 200% (like the ones in the previous chapter) are those that talk about emotions, not data.
So that you understand it better, I want you to read two fragments and think about which of the two connects the most with you.
“The food shortage in Malawi is affecting more than 3 million children. In Zambia, severe rainfall deficits have led to a 42% decline in maize production. As a result, an estimated three million Zambians face hunger. Four million Angolans, a third of the population, have been forced to flee their homes. More than 11 million people in Ethiopia need immediate food assistance ”.
“All the money you donate will go to Rokia, a 7-year-old girl who lives in Mali, Africa. Rokia survives in extreme poverty and is dying of starvation. Thanks to your gift he will have a chance to live. With your support and that of other generous contributors, Save the Children will work with Rokia’s family and the rest of her community to feed her, educate her and provide her basic health care. “
I have allowed myself the license not to make a literal translation of the original B fragment, but to transcreate it, adapting it to Spanish to make it more emotional in our language.
You do not need to answer, I know that you have connected more with this second text. As much as in the first one I explain that more than 3 million children are dying in Malawi, your brain empathizes with Rokia because you feel closer to her.
The two excerpts you have read are part of Study14 by Deborah Small, George Loewenstein and Paul Slovin, professors at the University of Pennsylvania. One of his conclusions was that a narrative based on analytical thinking alone is incapable of eliciting a reaction from the receiver of the message.
Finally, 7 characteristics that your story should have:
- It is credible and coherent.
- It is aimed at a specific audience.
- It is easy to remember, without many details.
- Use similes or metaphors to connect.
- It ends in a climax, it is not flat.
- It evokes emotions, it is not descriptive.
- The final message is positive.
You have already learned how stories affect the brain and how they should be, but you have yet to learn how to construct them. Knowing the ideal structure will help you write any text.