Storytelling is part of being human. You probably don’t need to think too much to rattle off a good yarn; but what’s really important is that the stories we tell, and the ways in which we tell them, stay fresh.
As a creative writer tutor I often tailored classes around the fundamentals of good story telling and what constitutes a compelling narrative.
I don’t know why I was surprised, then, that many of these same rules apply to copy and content writing. I guess I thought of corporate writing as an entirely different kettle of fish, certainly a dryer one, with less need for creativity.
I was wrong. In some ways, trying to make business writing colourful, engaging and juicy requires more creativity and resourcefulness than fiction writing – I mean, how exactly does one make an article about replacement kitchen doors dynamic?
It is possible! But the writer needs to be as engaged with their subject as they expect their implied readers to be. If the writer is bored of the product story, then the reader will be also.
Doing What Comes Naturally
Even in what seem like mundane, everyday conversations , we are drawing on sophisticated storytelling tools to create our reports on life, to structure and distort our anecdotes for full impact.
So, whether you’re talking about what happened to you last night at the pub, writing a thriller, or composing a guest post about solar power, storytelling will – and should – influence your crafting.
Story consolidates meaning. It is fundamental to the way we interpret life, and the world. Story is central to how we communicate with each other. And, if we want people to listen to us, to remember and promote what we write or say, we need to use it well.
More Than Words
Story is more than words: it’s art, it’s dance, it’s family, it’s politics and it’s history. Stories have been used to educate, entertain, enrich, comfort and terrify us since we began painting basic narrative images on the walls of caves.
The way that we store, select and re-interpret memories and information about people and events is based on story. Story – and the meaning that is central to it – is the thread that colourfully weaves together our emotions and relationships and experiences. In short, it is what makes us human.
But, in this way, the stories we repeat can be negative and limiting as well.
We create both constructive and destructive belief systems based on how we interpret and retell what has happened to us.
In the field of psychology and cognitive science, these belief templates are often referred to as ‘schemas’. As children we adopt schemata in order to understand the world, and unless challenged, for better or worse, we continue to use these frameworks to read the things that happen to us.
It’s not by chance that many of the terms linked to the notion of schemata are also found in story and narrative: frame, scene, script, stereotypes, social roles/identities and archetypes.
In life and in writing we need to keep things fresh in order to thrive, in order to grow. This sometimes means challenging the stories we tell, and the way that we tell them – both to ourselves, and others.
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