Storytelling: A Guide for Bloggers


By nature, human beings are storytellers. On an instinctual level, we use stories to make sense of the world and our place in it. In this post, we’ll learn how to harness the awesome power of a good story for your blog posts and email newsletters.

Once upon a time…

Storytelling is incredibly important for bloggers and MailPoet users to understand. Why? Well, simply because a good story allows us to convey information in an engaging way. As, David Mamet, a Pulitzer-prize-winning writer and playwright, puts it:

The audience will not tune in to watch information. You wouldn’t, I wouldn’t. No one would or will. The audience will only tune in and stay tuned in to watch drama.

Turn information into [something] interesting

Chances are, most of your subscribers probably aren’t excited to hear about the latest technical details of your business. Bug reports and budget spreadsheets don’t make for good blog posts (unless your readers work at Initech). Instead, the trick is to present your content in the form of a story.

Apple Computer

Additionally, a story helps your readers remember your content. While they probably won’t remember the technical features of your new product, they’ll definitely remember a good story about how you came up with the idea, overcame challenges and ultimately created the product.

A classic example of this phenomenon is the founding of Apple. While most people don’t remember the technical details of their first computer (the Apple I), they do know about the story of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak creating a startup company in their garage. Conclusion: Information alone is boring.

If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.
Rudyard Kipling

Common story patterns

Now that you know why stories are important, let’s dive into the details of what makes a good one. Luckily, storytelling is pretty simple; after all, we’re wired to tell (and listen to) stories. In fact, there are only about seven types of stories in the world, period!

What are these seven types? Well, it depends on whom you ask. According to Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch (an English writer, clearly), most stories are about man fighting against something, whether that be another man, nature, himself, or society. Christopher Booker, on the other hand, divides storytelling into seven very different categories. His choices are more specific, with titles like Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches and The Quest.

Oliver Twist

At first glance, these titles sound completely unrelated to blogging and email newsletters. However, take a closer look and you’ll realize that they line up perfectly to common blog post topics.

Have you ever read a story about a new startup taking on a competitor? That’s a Man Against Man story. How about a blog post charting the rise of an entrepreneur from his garage to Silicon Valley riches? A Rags to Riches tale, indeed.

The trials and tribulations of mundane activities

When writing your own content, see if you can formulate your topic into one of the archetypes listed above. Even if your topic is dry, try to wrap your content inside a story, no matter how brief or tenuous the connection.

This post by Pippin Williamson is a great example. While the post is ultimately about sales facts and figures (boring), the information is presented via an in-depth and relatable story (exciting). Pippin leads us through the founding of the company, the creation of the product, the struggles of providing support, the tough decision to increase prices, and finally, the (surprisingly good) result. If he simply said, “We increased the price on all extensions by 50-250% and had a good outcome,” his post would be significantly less enjoyable to read.

Add a personal touch to your writing

Finally, let’s talk about word choice. An easy way to “story-ify” your blog posts and newsletters is to use personal pronouns, like I, you and we. Aim to write in the first person (I risked everything) or second person (you wouldn’t believe what happened next) rather than the third-person (The company then launched its first product.)

Why? Because it’s more relatable. This personal mode of address reminds the reader that there is a human being behind the computer. Likewise, by using everyday language (as opposed to overly-technical vocabulary) you’ll make your reader feel like you’re talking directly to them and not to an encyclopedia entry.

The moral of the story

It doesn’t matter how good your blog post is if no one reads it. By presenting your content in the form of a story, you’ll make your readers both enjoy your newsletters more and remember what they learned.

The End