Writing & Storytelling

Unleash Your Narrative Potential: 3 Ways to Find Great Stories to Tell

Share this!

Would you like to learn more tips for writing better stories and otherwise drawing readers in and moving them to act? If so, then please join PRSA and Ann Wylie at one of their 2024 writing classes You’ll learn to tell better stories, write better headlines — even write better, easier and faster. Save $100 with coupon code PRSA24.

Find more writing & storytelling articles in the February issue of Strategies & Tactics.

There has never been a better time to tell stories. In these days, when Google is testing a chatbot to write news, one way to continue to deliver high value to your clients and organization is to bring human intelligence to artificial intelligence.

That means doing more human-interest writing, letting your personal voice shine through and telling more stories.

So, how do you find stories to tell? Here are three ways: 

  1. Tell your process story.

One day, my husband came home with a bottle of Kelt — not his usual cognac. When I asked why he’d switched brands, he pulled out the box and started reading:

Centuries ago, it was discovered that cognac, which was sent from France to the colonies, improved dramatically during the long sea voyage. The rolling of the sea, the temperature variations, frequent air pressure changes and the sea air itself rounds the spirit off in a beautiful way.

In the 20th century came the age of brands. This meant the spirits were shipped in bottles rather than in oak barrels. The magical effect of the sea was lost as a spirit does not mature once it is bottled.

Kelt has revived the tradition… We send our already aged spirits, still in oak barrels, on a three-month sea voyage around the globe. This, the Kelt Tour du Monde, creates a unique spirit and restores an aspect of quality lost for almost a century.

Why did he change his brand? The process story made him do it.

  1. Post an RFS (request for stories).

The New York Times asks readers for their stories about dealing with loneliness. Weight Watchers stacks cards by the scale before meetings asking members to share their stories. Vision Service Plan pays ophthalmologists $75 to share their stories about working with the insurer.

What stories would you get, if only you asked for them?

Wherever you post your RFSs, ask these three questions for a good story:

  • What was the problem you faced?
  • What was the solution you used?
  • What were the results you achieved?

This formula will give you a nice little narrative arc.

  1. Ask When questions.

Good stories cover one moment in time. So, if you’re looking for a story, then ask when questions.

When questions take content experts back to a specific time, a specific place — and, often, a specific story. Look for:

  • Moments of pain
  • Moments of change
  • Moments of crisis
  • Moments of decision

That’s where the stories are.

A writer once asked Kansas City architect Cary Goodman when he knew he would join his profession. He told her about the time he built a fabulous tree house at the age of 9. His construction was so great that the local paper sent a photographer to shoot it. The photo made the front page.

“It was my first published building,” Goodman said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to be an architect.”

Ann Wylie works with communicators who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out. Don’t miss a single tip: Sign up for Ann’s email newsletter here.

Copyright © 2024 Ann Wylie. All rights reserved.

[Photo: pixel-shot]


About the author

Ann Wylie

Leave a Comment