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Storytelling and Technical Writing

by Bradley Nice, Content Manager at ClickHelp — all-in-one help authoring tool

Do you like stories? As for me, I really do. When the plot is curious, and the characters are unpredictable — I find myself reading. I cannot help that =)

Research shows that storytelling is an efficient instrument. Any information in the form of a story tends to be more attractive. It is a part of our consciousness as people started to tell stories in ancient times, and they still do it in the form of literature, to say nothing about advertising, marketing, and even design. That is why storytelling is so widely spread today. But what about technical communication? Isn`t it a story as well? Definitely, not every document is a story. But some documents will only benefit from becoming a story and acquiring a plot.

Stories are meant to make it easier for a reader to perceive the information. Their aim is to make the connection between a reader and a writer stronger. They explain the information in an intuitive and native way. Of course, this way of representing the information is not suitable for some documents (for example, maintenance manuals, or white papers), but other documents will become even better using it — let`s say tutorials and other learning materials. If you want to encourage people to read your documents, to engage new readers — storytelling is the right way for you.

First, it might seem easy to convert your document into a story. But creating an attractive and efficient story requires some effort and knowledge:

  • Define the purpose of the story. You should know why you are writing your technical story. The purpose influences all the rest: the characters, the scenes, the visuals (if you are going to have any), the structure of the document, the choice of words, etc. Sometimes, when the text is ready, you realize that the purpose was quite different. So, you should be careful here.
  • Define the audience. It is one of the basic rules of technical writing in general. Here it works as well. If you are writing for experts, that might not work as some documents require facts only. But if you are writing for a non-expert and your main task is to teach this person, the method we are talking about will give good results.
  • Choose the protagonist. It is the main character of your story so to say. Let`s say in a technical document, it might be a person who is having a problem or needs information. The story will show how the problem can be solved, or the protagonist will get the information required.
  • Define the setting. You should know where and when the story is happening. A proper context in a technical story will make it easier for the readers to understand the information.
  • Define the scenes. The whole document may be divided into parts, or chapters, or sections. It depends on how you represent the information. The same can be done in storytelling. Your technical document may have several scenes depending on what is described in each scene.

Of course, writing a technical story needs creativity and courage. But a well-written technical story will surely find a response among your audience for this type of writing makes us remember things and facts for a long time. I hope this post will inspire you to use and upgrade this skill to create perfect technical documentation.

Have a nice day!

Bradley Nice, Content Manager at ClickHelp.com — best online documentation tool for SaaS vendors



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