Your business associates want to learn your secret to success. Your family wants to help you over your heartache and heartbreak and celebrate the good times.
Everybody has a story. Have you struggled to find work and finally landed the job of your dreams? That’s a story. Were you stuck in bad relationships for years before you learned how to attract the right person? That’s a story. Did you always want to write a book but lacked confidence until you found someone who inspired you to take action? That’s a story.
The power of stories is their ability to teach and inspire. Heroes inspire others with their courage. Think of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Mahatma Ghandi, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr. They believed in the power of dreams and helped make our world a better place. Or William Shakespeare, Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll. Their writing has shaped the minds of students for years and inspired many to become authors.
Stories share common themes. You’re not alone in the world. You’re not the only one who searches for a dream career. You’re not the only one who desperately wants the love of your life. And you’re certainly not the only one who wants to make a million dollars. Everyone wants to love and be loved. Good relationships are a common goal. So are having a comfortable life and making a difference.
If your story talks about one or all of those things then you have something in common with other people. People reading your story feel a connection to you, to the things you’ve experienced. Your story has universal appeal. With universal appeal your story can reach hundreds, thousands, even millions of people. But how do you put that in your book, especially if you’re writing nonfiction?
Spicing It Up
Nonfiction books can seem dry. Too technical. Just page after page of detail. It’s important to share information with your readers. And there’s a way to make that information more interesting.
You do it with personal stories.
Suzy had a great idea for a book to help people with relationship problems. She’d been in and out of bad relationships for over 10 years and finally found the man of her dreams. But she didn’t know how to start writing. Every time she tried to write she froze. She’d start a sentence then erase it. Start again and write a couple lines and decide to change direction. After fifteen minutes of this she wanted to tear up the paper and she’d done this for several days. She was in tears when we met and ready to give up hope.
I had her take several deep breaths to calm her down then I asked her to tell me how she met her current husband. Her eyes brightened, her slumped shoulders straightened, and her whole body radiated purpose. She was relaxed, passionate, and on a mission. When she finished her story, I told her, “Start with what you know. Start with the story of how you met your husband.”
The last two paragraphs are a personal story. They’re not about details or technicalities. They don’t tell you about sentence structure or character development. They talk about a personal struggle and how a shift or victory was reached. Suzy was inspired when she left her coaching session and she was able to go home and write. You want your stories to inspire people, to show them a way out of their struggle, to let them know someone has been successful and they can be too.
The next time you write, include a personal story. What happened to you? What struggle did you
overcome? What personal stories can you share?