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The Power of Written Storytelling

Being able to tell your organization’s stories is vital to connecting with your audience. (Again, when I use the word story, I’m talking about a true tale, nonfiction).

How you tell your stories will determine who will be moved by them. You can find inspiring stories, whether you’re at a nonprofit or a business, by spending time with the peo­ple you are help­ing. I under­stand this can be dif­fi­cult, espe­cially if it’s not part of your reg­u­lar job descrip­tion. It’s often easy to get bogged down with daily duties.

In other instances, public rela­tions man­agers focus their atten­tion on get­ting the organization’s mes­sage out to the traditional news media. That used to be the most important way to reach a large audience.  And while good media coverage still matters, some­one in your orga­ni­za­tion should also be aware that a big part of what you should be doing is telling sto­ries to your audi­ence directly. This allows your audi­ence to feel a greater con­nec­tion to you.

Once you find a story to tell, it’s also impor­tant to craft it in a way that imme­di­ately grabs the reader’s attention. It’s essen­tial that you iden­tify what part of your story will do this, as well as how to struc­ture it. The fol­low­ing series will walk you through how to write the beginning, middle, and end of a story.

1. The Power of Written Storytelling: The Beginning (Part 1)

2. The Power of Written Storytelling: The Middle: Why Does Your Story Matter? (Part 2)

3. The Power of Written Storytelling: The Middle: Setting the Scene by Reporting the Story to Death (Part 3)

4. The Power of Written Storytelling: The Middle: Adding Flavor (Part 4)

5. The Power of Written Storytelling: The End: Why Write Awesome Endings? (Part 5)

Also, check out: Nonprofits Telling Awesome Stories: charity: water (Part 1) and Tyler Riewer’s Adventures With charity: water

Plus, Serial Storytelling on Social Media.

The Power of Written Storytelling: The End: Why Write Awesome Endings? (Part 5)

This is the fifth part of a series of posts about writ­ing a story. (Again, when I write the word story, I mean a true tale, non­fic­tion). Here, I will discuss the importance of a great ending.

Girl on tracks.
I always like train tracks, and they remind me of great endings. Maybe it’s because it’s a hint of the future; the journey that you can still go on. (Photo credit: Barta IV)

I’m really into endings. Story endings, that is. Endings that make reading the whole story worthwhile. So you can sit back and reflect in the awesomeness of the moment, not jump up and down in frustration, or worse still, quietly forget it.

If I watch a movie and the ending is terrible, I’ll probably hate the entire movie, even if I’ve liked it up until that point. Or if don’t like a movie that much, but actually make it to the end and the ending is awesome, I will probably say I thought the movie was at the very least good.

(This is a bit off-topic, but so you can totally relate to what I mean by mind-blowing endings before we get started, here are three movies that fit that bill. If you haven’t seen them, now is the time. You can even call it homework: “The Usual Suspects,” “Fight Club,” “Fargo.”)

Oh, and if you haven’t read the stories I’ve been mentioning in these posts, I’m warning you now there will be some spoilers.

Continue reading The Power of Written Storytelling: The End: Why Write Awesome Endings? (Part 5)

Mr. Penumbra, His 24-Hour Bookstore, and the Future

It all started with Mr. Penumbra and his bookstore, his 24-hour bookstore that is, and the clerk Clay and his girlfriend Kat talking about the future (page 60). This happens in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan, a fabulous short novel about a bookstore that is more than it appears, customers who never buy but check out endless books and, of course, a budding new romance. What could be more enticing than that?

Where will the future take us?
Where will the future take us? (Photo credit: Infrogmation)

Here’s part of the conversation from page 60, as we’re going to need to discuss that.

Kat: “Okay, we’re going to play. To start, imagine the future. The good future. No nuclear bombs. Pretend you’re a science fiction writer.”

Clay: Okay: “World government…no cancer…hover-boards.”
“Go further. What’s the good future after that?”
“Spaceships. Party on Mars.”
“Further.”
“Star Trek. Transporters. You can go anywhere.”
“Further.”

I pause a moment and then realize. “I can’t.”

Kat shakes her head. “It’s really hard. And that’s, what, a thousand years? What comes after that? What could possibly come after that? Imagination runs out. But it makes sense right? We probably just imagine things based on what we already know, and we run out of analogies in the thirty-first century.”

Ok, we got a little sidetracked on the sci-fi angle here. It was honestly the hover-boards that pulled me in as I would love to ride one. But let’s just imagine even 20 years into the future.

If we can imagine taking one leap, and thinking of that as something that already exists, then we can build from there. Suppose in the 1980s, we had imagined (and I suppose some people did) that everyone would be online all the time by the next century. What could we have imagined from there? Could we have realized mobile devices were going to be as prevalent as they are today?

The point is that once you go forward 10 or 15 years and realize that one assumption might come true, you can look for the next one. And then nothing seems unrealistic anymore. But if you try and skip from where we are now to something like 50 years later, it becomes more difficult. What would be easier to imagine first back in the 1950s? Having a dial-up Internet connection, or everyone having mobiles that they would carry with them that would have access to the Internet?

Continue reading Mr. Penumbra, His 24-Hour Bookstore, and the Future