Tell us a story

LinkedIn, Twitter and CV sites are jam-packed with ‘storytellers’. Corporate storytellers, even. But so many of these claims at being able to weave a cohesive narrative fall short.

Storytelling is not simply about going from A-to-B in a perfunctory manner. If that were the case, then novels would be rather thin, and films would all be over by the time you’d swallowed your first mouthful of popcorn.

It may be a useful way to work on User Experience (UX), but it won’t keep readers engaged when not simply performing tasks. Storytelling is all about beginning, middle and end, whether that is headline, tag line, call-to-action, or set-up, biography and denouement.

A good storyteller knows what the story is (not as simple as it sounds), how to order it and how to turn that order on its head when needs be. Anyone can write a shopping list, it takes a special skill to make someone else want to read it. This is where the storyteller comes into their own. Weaving a narrative, making that story sparkle and drawing the reader in. Storytelling is not about listicles, bullet points or SEO, it is about feeling.

Let me take you back to your first experience of stories. When your parents (or maybe your nanny, if you were a bit posh) read them to you. You didn’t know what a narrative was, couldn’t care less about story arc and weren’t even that bothered about the jacket or illustrations. What you cared about was how that story made YOU feel. This is why you had your parents read the same story to you again and again, and went back to the same books again and again once you were old enough to read them yourself.

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All of this was down to a good story and a good telling of it – by the writer, not your parents. Even The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a thrill ride for an infant. You don’t get bored when the caterpillars has eaten a few plums, you want to know just what the hell happens at the end. The best copy does the same job, just as the best journalism and novels do.

So, here is my final plea. Please don’t add ‘storyteller’ to your CV unless you can indeed spin a yarn, tell a tale or at least take a shaggy dog for a walk around the block. And they all lived happily ever after. THE END.