The Blogger’s Guide to Telling Stories That Win Hearts and Minds

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You pour out your heart and soul, but sometimes that feels like shouting your words down a bottomless abyss.

You know you have a world of knowledge to pass on – but you have no idea how to wrap it into an exciting package your readers will love.

Could it be that … your writing just isn’t engaging enough?

After all, if even famous writers like Hemingway or Steinbeck took many, many years to excel in their craft, how are you supposed to instantly produce a moving masterpiece out of thin air?

You just feel overwhelmed.

And when the time comes to crank out another post for your blog or writing client, that huge blank space with the relentlessly blinking cursor … frankly, it’s terrifying. Because you fear the response to your efforts will be radio silence … once again.

Luckily, you have a fool-proof technique at your disposal that is guaranteed to make your readers long for every powerful word you write.

And it’s been around forever.

Story telling

The Incredible Power of Stories to Win Hearts and Minds
As humans, words are perhaps our most powerful tools. Words have crushed souls and built empires. So let me tell you a little story about the true power of words.

It’s the story of Scheherazade, a young girl in ancient Persia, who was facing execution, scheduled for the next morning.

Curiously, she had brought herself into her situation on purpose. She had agreed to marry the king.

The king’s first wife cheated on him, and he felt so angry and bitter that he decided to make sure it never happened again: by bedding a new virgin wife every night and having her decapitated the next morning.

But Scheherazade wasn’t just stunningly beautiful; she was also extraordinarily smart. She had a plan to snap the king out of his bloodthirsty frenzy. Every night, she would tell him one of the most bewitching, mesmerizing stories he had ever heard and interrupt it right at its peak, promising to continue the next night.

And every night, the king spared her life for just one more day.

But for how long could she continue this dangerous game?

You’ll have to wait to find out. But first, let’s take a look at the powerful trick Scheherazade employed.

Why a 30,000-Year-Old Trick Still Works Today
As long as humans have existed, we have been hardwired to satisfy one urge. (No, it’s not what you think.) I’m talking about storytelling.

Some 30,000 years ago, when our ancestors carved the thrilling tale of their last mammoth hunt into rock walls, their scraggly-haired friends must have consumed these stories eagerly.

That’s because the need for stories is rooted deeply inside our brains.

It’s the reason you love watching movies or TV. The reason you exchange your latest personal adventures over a cup of coffee. The reason we tell bedtime stories to our kids and the reason you can’t help but check your Facebook page for updates from friends.

We’re addicted to stories because we get the thrill of a new experience without risking pain or hardship ourselves. And they’re a form of communication. We live and relive events through stories.

And our brains process stories differently. Stories engage a deeper part of our brains than any logical explanation ever could — it’s the emotional part, the “Ugh-I-once-felt-that-too” part. And we connect at a much deeper level than information delivered in the abstract.

Author David Mamet famously stated, “The audience will not tune in to watch information. You wouldn’t, I wouldn’t. No one would or will. The audience will only tune in and stay tuned in to watch drama.”

When you think about it, that’s exactly the reason we read the entertainment, sports, even politics section of the news.

Humans crave drama – so feed it to them like candy!

But how does this apply to you as a blogger?
How to Find the Perfect Story for Any Situation
Having been convinced of the universal power of storytelling – even for bloggers – you might be wondering where your stories come from.

How do you find that mesmerizing story idea that will bring life to your post?

In truth, all your idea needs is the secret ingredient we’ve already mentioned: strong emotions!

Turn on the TV, open a magazine – you will always see the same forms of drama. Nothing special about it, but people are eating it up like hot fudge.

How you present is much more important than what you present. So don’t panic because you think you need to rewrite Gone with the Wind.

Whether your story covers a single phrase, a whole section, or your entire post, first you should identify the point you want to make.

Then look for a story that expresses your point as neatly as possible.

Simple, right?

Well, just in case it doesn’t seem simple just yet, let’s look at a specific example.

Say you run a “home and garden” blog and want to write a post about buying furniture, in particular how to match colors and fabrics.

What type of stories could you use to enhance your post?

The following are a few different story types you could draw upon for your furniture post.

1. Stories Where You are the Main Character

The first option is to exploit your personal experiences. You already know that it makes for a strong connection with your reader.

In our example, if you ever worked in a store selling furniture, you should feel like you won the lottery.

Granted, that’s not very likely. But maybe you could draw a parallel with an experience you did have? What about that summer job in a clothing store you took in your teens? Clothes require careful combinations too. You could tell a story of your worst-dressed customer as an analogy for a room full of poorly coordinated furniture.

Remember, everybody, including you, has a myriad of stories to tell; most people just don’t dare to tell them publicly. Your life is an accumulation of stories. Draw from your wealth of experiences.

Societal norms have put filters into our heads. So go ahead and be the one who dares to shake people out of their fatigue by telling them something raw and authentic.

The more inner resistance you feel to telling your story, the better it is: You are involved emotionally. Transfer your emotions onto the page and the reader. He will love you for it.

2. Stories You Have Heard or Read

What did your ex-roommate once tell you about his Dad’s obsession with antique furniture? What about your cousin’s eccentric taste in pillow covers? And what did you learn from that documentary the other day about glassware?

We are constantly bombarded with an avalanche of stories from family, friends, acquaintances, and the media. Make mental notes. Use the boring small talk at the next garden party to extract interesting stories from strangers – you will also have a better time than asking how their kids are doing for the third time.

Draw upon these stories in your writing. There is a reason why you remember them; some piece of it connected with you. Find the part that got you interested in the first place, and parade it. It will also be the most interesting part for your reader.

3. Stories You Find on The Internet

One tool offers an inexhaustible supply of stories.

It’s your old friend Google. And while an unfocused Google search can be like diving down a rabbit hole, finding the right story is usually just a matter of using the right keywords.

History is an endless source of great stories. (The term even contains the word “story.”) Look how Mark Manson fills an entire 4,000-word post with countless historical mini-stories. Even the tabloid papers would have a hard time coming up with that much sex and personal drama.

For my furniture-related post, I Googled “Victorian furniture styles,” and found this Wikipedia link, which mentions how plaster was scored to look like stone and graining was used on woods to imitate higher quality. You could easily tell a story about how it was fashionable in Victorian times to fake surfaces to seem higher class.

4. Stories From Your Reader’s Life

Try to put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Have you been where he is now? If not, give it your best guess. Which concerns could be on his mind right now?

Whoever your reader is, if he is reading a post about how to match furniture, he quite likely is in the process of furnishing his new house or apartment. So why not begin the post like this:

If you started a blog about parenting, that might be a story about a teething baby. Readers of a tattoo blog would be more interested in the story of the first time you were “inked.”

5. Stories You Just Made Up (It’s Okay)

The point of a great story is to draw your reader in, entertain them, and leave them with a message. And a story doesn’t have to be true to achieve these goals.

So if you don’t have a story, invent one.

Of course, there are limits. Never lie about your biography (education, career, big merits), never lie about another existing person, and don’t fake events to provoke opinions. Don’t explicitly claim your invented story is true either.

For the furniture blog post, you could make up a story of someone newly rich, with almost unlimited budget, whose expensive furniture was combined so badly that house guests laughed at his lack of taste. Your message? That a beautifully furnished room is not limited by budget.

Build a Devoted Following through the Magic of Storytelling

Armed to the teeth with storytelling tools, you can now engage your readers’ emotions like never before.

Remember, you’ve told hilarious stories during family holiday dinners or when you were alone with your best friend. Telling stories on your blog is easy too.

And Scheherazade?

With enormous courage and wit, she managed the unthinkable: After firing up the king’s passion night after night with her thrilling stories about wonders, love, and danger, he spared her life and made her his queen.

Scheherazade saved her own life, and thousands of others (the king’s future brides), with the mesmerizing power of storytelling.

Here is the point: We humans are raw and vulnerable. We want to see ourselves reflected in others and we want to experience truth (even if it’s not always fact) – which is why we love to immerse ourselves in the pain and the joy of a sweeping story.

Give people the stories they are so desperately longing for and they will strongly engage with your writing – as they will feel your message to the core.

You have magnificent, unbelievable stories, begging to be told.

The question is: do you have the courage to tap into your deepest emotions and share them with the world?

Because if you do, your readers will be your loyal audience forever.

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