Once upon a time…
Remember how you perked up when you heard that as a kid? You knew that a story was coming. We love stories.
I used to do professional speaking as part of my business. One of the things I loved was that you could figure out what worked from the audience while you were doing your speech. One thing that always worked was a switch into a story. No matter how you led into it, the audience perked up.
Human beings love stories
We love stories. Stories are the way that human beings have dealt with remembering important things and making sense of complex information since we first used language. So, why do so many business authors write books without a single story?
I started thinking about this because I just finished a business book that was a lot like listening to a lecture. The author told you what he thought. He told you why it was important. And, at least in my case, you had to fight to stay awake.
Stories are something we’re naturally wired to love. I think business authors don’t use stories for three reasons.
We’re not educated in storytelling
Think back to when you were in high school and college. Your English teacher wanted you to create simple, straightforward arguments. You didn’t tell stories, you formulated premises and supported them. If you learned that good writing didn’t include stories, you won’t use stories in your book.
Stories aren’t appropriate for a lot of business writing
A lot of the writing business people do is reports and proposals. Stories work sometimes, but mostly you need facts and logic to get the job done. If most of your business writing doesn’t use stories, it makes sense to conclude that your business book doesn’t need them.
Some authors think stories are fluff
I remember working with a client several years back who said that he really didn’t want stories in his book. After all, stories were just filler. They weren’t facts. But stories are the way we remember the facts and weave them into reality.
They write down the statistics but they remember the stories
When you tell people you’re going to give them a list or three important points, they lean forward and start to take notes. They write down the statistics and the bullet points.
When you tell them a story, they lean back. They just listen. But what happens afterward is interesting. At the end of the speech or even months or years later, people remember the stories but not the statistics they wrote down.
The only stories that matter are the ones with emotion
Let’s go back to that book that I just finished reading. There were “stories” in the book, but they weren’t the kind of stories you tell across the dining room table or around the campfire, or after an hour or so down at the local tavern. They were stories without emotion.
Stories without emotion don’t count. The stories that matter to us are the stories that are laced with emotion. They’re the ones we remember. They’re the ones we learn from.
Stories make your book interesting, memorable, and helpful.