Learn from the storytellers

Nov 20, 2014 | Writing A Book

Question: What do Agatha Christie, Sidney Sheldon, Danielle Steele, and Harold Robbins have in common?

Answer: They’re among the top ten best selling fiction authors.

Question: What can you learn from them if you’re writing a business book?

Answer: A lot.

Storytelling is at the heart of great business books

That’s the difference between business books that feel like textbooks and the business books people read and learn from. Some great business books are a single story, like Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? by Lou Gerstner. Other great business books use stories to illustrate their learning points, like Scaling Up Excellence by Bob Sutton and Huggy Rao.

The best selling fiction authors are storytellers

The people who write mysteries and westerns and romances have to write stories well if they want to succeed. Stories are all they have. People will not keep reading their books unless they like what they read. As Mickey Spillane said: “The first chapter sells the book. The last chapter sells the next book.”

Learning from the storytellers

Pick up a good mystery or romance or western and read it. When you’re done, think about the following.

  • What did the author do at the beginning to grab your attention?
  • How did he or she keep you reading?
  • What got you to flip to the next chapter?

When you’ve learned a lesson or two, apply it to your own writing.

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