Illustration: Søren Clemen Møller Gøttsche

How to Write a Good Story (for your Business), Part One

Writing a good story makes people read, while reading can make people do stuff, such as opting for your product or service.


Key takeaways:

  • Telling the right part of your story is crucial
  • Re-writing makes your story better
  • Eliminating excess creates more powerful messages
  • Formatting is a great tool to deliver your story
  • With a good heading, you’re halfway to more readers

To me, it’s all about the story.

If you aren’t able to write (or tell) a good story, I maybe won’t see it, feel it or even listen at all. And I need to do that in order to make up my mind, eventually changing my behaviour to do the stuff, you want me to do. At least if that’s your plan.

Know this — writing good stories can affect, and affects people, as I write.

Every second of the day.

Massively.

But how do you master writing a good story that affects people?

Whether you try to sell me a pair of stonewashed, bio-friendly, animal welfare-supporting jeans or just want to lid up my imagination with old wacky bonfire tellings, the story (and the communication of it) remains the very core. Storytelling alters my perception on a daily basis, making me either buy, know or perhaps just feel in a certain way. If the story and its dissemination isn’t good, you’ll have a long way to go – regardless if your goal is to inspire people or you are trying to affect them.

That’s why you’ll make good use of mastering the following “tricks”, which I’ve obtained in school, read by other people that writes (a lot), or just simply experienced the hard way:

A) 
Finding the right essence matters, so figure out what you really want to tell me. Like, in its core. Are you planning to write the most exciting part of your story? If not, then immediately find the cardinal juice of your story, zoom in, emphasise, and then fold it out.

Today, information runs fast.

I n s a n e l y

f a s t.

Know that people can easily lose track of stories. Both their own and those they read, are told, or soak up in other ways. Often, it’s because you start off the wrong place or just don’t stick to the essence itself.

Let’s say that you want to tell a crowd of genuinely hardcore race car fanatics the story about the new top-of-the-line and limited edition Lamborghini Centenario. They presumably don’t care that much about the car’s running costs, its eco-value or whatever sustainable feature it might possess. So, skip that part of the story and instantly quench their unattainable boyhood dreams about horsepower, 0–60 mph numbers and how many cylinders it takes to run the beast.

This will captivate your readers’ imaginations and at the same time enlighten their brains, while possibly making them feel better. Simply by you bringing them the value they want. In connection with this, knowing your target audience, as per the above example, is a second, and very appreciated, key to levitate your full storyteller potential.

B) 
Write, write, write, delete, write, re-write, correct the whole thing, proofread your text, and then start over again.

When I take my camera for a portrait shoot, I utilise the session to take loads of pictures. Being a semi-amateur photographer myself, the good portrait photo usually won’t get captured immediately. But that doesn’t matter – being an amateur gives me the right to take my time. So that’s what I do. I take my time to shoot up to hundreds of images before the light, focus, bokéh, smile, etc. is just right.

As with my photographing, I normally use my keyboard to try out dozens of sentences, word combinations and orders to get the meaning (and thereby the story) just right. That said, I’m no poor, nor amateur, writer, I’m just using the power of adjusting stuff till it’s done right. If I got the time (and money).

And as with shooting a whole series of photos, it doesn’t have to take that much extra time, and my experience tells me that the result gets better for every adjustment, re-arranging or read-through I do. Until a certain point, naturally.

C) 
If you can delete a word, do it.

This is perhaps the simplest, yet most powerful writing trick I’ve heard years ago and since then sought to master. It was told by my former landlord, who was a vivid storyteller that delivered eloquent and sharp messages with an exquisite way of combining the right words. And then deleting them again. To tiden up.

That was the core for him. Eradicating superfluous words, lines and sentences to communicate the pure essence of it all. To make it all more focused. I’ve already deviated from this principle in this section. Period.

D) 
Discover the power of formatting. Especially when writing for digital.

Look at the beginning of this post. Noting anything besides the actual text and its meaning?

[…]

Exactly.

The formatting of your text means (a hell of ) a lot. With formatting, you can underline messages, focus on important details and emphasise meaning.

Like.

Really emphasise meaning.

The opposite is also possible, putting away hidden gems in a whole stack of text. And for starters, the above-mentioned is just done with simple line breaks. Know that italic, bold, _underscored_, underlined, struck-through or even coloured text are also effective ways of underlining your message.

Just don’t overdo _it_.

When writing for digital, you’ll encounter different types of internet users, including the likes of “scrollers”, who literally scroll through hundreds of pages, when surfing the internet. These “scrollers” can be entrapped with the right formatting (and of course the right words), because it gives your story even more rhythm, captivates the eye, and creates multiple entrances to your story. The latter are mostly needed because people rarely read a story from top to bottom in one stretch.

Right?

E) 
The heading is a crazy great tool, when exercised appropriately.

Your story’s heading, or your e-mail’s subject line for that matter, is one of the single-most important keys to catch people’s attention — especially when writing for digital, as per the trick described above.

When wanting your potential readers’ attention, try to feed them with a headline that encompasses the following three qualities:

Awakening, because you want to intercept people’s attention with something that at best blows their mind or they simply can’t live without.

Inciting, because writing an inciting headline is the exact hook you want to put in your prey (sorry, readers).

Adequateness, because the subject line should preferably sum up what the essence of your story is about.

When practiced right, the headline is the fastest way to growth hack your click rate.

To be continued…

Part Two of this post will focus even more on the opportunities of connecting your writing with your (business) goal.

Stay tuned.

By the way…
Naturally, there are many ways of writing your story, bio, job application or whatever. Also, there are many ways of getting there. You know, to the right point, where it all comes together and makes sense. That’s the beauty of it all. This said, the above solely sums up some of my most-used methods, so feel free to add-up with your own approach. In the end, it’s all about starting off, taking a detour and eventually land the story, where you feel it’s right – 
‘Practice makes perfect (or at least better storytelling)’.