Sick to Death of “Storytelling”? I’m with You. But We’re Wrong.

I’ve gotten into a nasty habit lately.

I know it’s not good for me. But I take some kind of sick pleasure in it.

And I can’t stop, you guys.

It’s a game I like to call “Dumpster Diving into Controversial Facebook Post Comments.”

At first, I had great intentions.

I think part of the reason the world feels so divided right now is that we’re not open to hearing the “other” side. We’re so passionate about what we believe and we’re so sure we’re right that we don’t even consider our opponents’ reasons for what they say and believe.

When I started reading comments on posts I didn’t agree with, I thought I’d learn to understand where people were coming from.

Oh, sweet, naïve little Whitster. How wrong you were.

If you’ve ever gone elbows-deep into the comments section of a hot-button issue post, you know there’s not a whole lot of “understanding” going on.

It’s a war zone in there.

About 5-6 comments in, any semblance of rational thought goes out the window and it descends into name-calling. Bullying. And straight-up abuse — with each side weirdly hauling the exact same insults back at one another, each feeling 100% in the right.

“I’m racist? More like you’re racist!”

“I’m clueless? At least I don’t fall for fake news like you.”

And my personal favorite flavor of comment…

“I’m offensive? That’s ironic, considering THIS picture from seven Halloweens ago of you as zombie Michael Jackson that I found during my intensely creepy stalk of your personal account.”

So I’ve learned my lesson. And at this point in my weird little game, I’m not so much looking for understanding. I’m just trying to figure out what the eff’s going on with humans.

The other day, I saw a post in my News Feed…

It was from a friend whose wall is rife with posts I don’t agree with. I pressed play on the latest video he shared and was floored by what I heard.

Because as someone who leans to the left (when I lean at all), who still feels the Bern…

This video about the “other side”’s plan persuaded me. Just the teensiest bit.

All because of story…

WH Press Sec. Sanders makes tax analogy with reporters beer

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders begins briefing with extended tax analogy involving reporters and beer.

Posted by ABC News on Monday, October 30, 2017

Now, I haven’t fact-checked anything. I can’t claim these numbers are representative. And I’m surely not saying I agree with everything in the video and want to open a political debate about it.

I really, really don’t.

But this story made me pause.

It made me see something I was pretty stubbornly against in a totally new way.

It opened my mind just a crack, which is all that’s needed to continue the conversation and learn more about the issue.

THAT is what story can do.

I know, “storytelling” is so overdone.

It’s up there with “authenticity” and “start with why” in the Marketing Buzzwords I Want to Avada Kadavra category.

But suspend that buzzword hatred for just a minute. Because if you’re not harnessing the power of story in your writing, then you’re only hurting yourself.

Telling a story is a non-intimidating way to share your point of view with someone — even someone who’s generally not open to hearing it.

Story allows you to take a heavy, complicated issue and present it as something people can understand.

Story is fun! Your readers are actual people on the other side of the laptop screen. If you can bring some joy or entertainment to their reading process, they’re going to be much more excited to read the next thing you put out.

And another nifty thing about stories is that once people start listening, they want to finish.

Our brains crave completeness. We’re hardwired to hear a story through to its conclusion once we’ve been hooked.

Story is an excellent way to keep readers glued to your message. (For more nerdiness on why our brains like story, check out this great article from the Harvard Business Review.)

The next time you stall out while writing, when you’re trying to make an important point but it’s just not happening…use a story to present your case in a palatable and interesting way.

Stumped on what kind of story to tell? Answer one of these questions:

What parallels can you draw to a familiar situation in your reader’s life?

What is another way you can present your argument that may be simpler, clearer, or more easily digested?

If you were explaining this concept to a fifth grader, how would you talk about it? What example could you use to make it real for them?

Use THAT in your next email.

…/blog post/sales letter/webpage/landing page/Facebook ad/anything.

You can’t go too weird here.

I’ve successfully written stories about IKEA furniture, Taylor Swift, and organic Greek yogurt (true story) to make a bigger point. As long as there’s a strong tie-in to your overall argument, you’re golden!

In fact, I’d argue that the weirder the story, the better. Weird is memorable. Weird is interesting. Weird sticks.

So play around with this! Give story a shot in your next piece of copy.

It will connect with readers and make your concept tangible.

It will hook them, hold their interest, and keep them reading.

And maybe, just maybe, it could win an argument deep in the Facebook comments section.

(In which case, I’ll give you a “like” when I stumble across your comment during my weekly Facebook dumpster deep dive. 😉 )

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© Whitney Ryan LLC

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