5 Elements for Crafting a Compelling Story Your Audience Will Love

    As a writer, you want people to pay attention to what you have to say…

    But with people processing over 100,000 digital words every day, you’ve got your work cut out.

    With so much clutter and noise, how can you possibly stand out and get your words noticed?

    Perhaps storytelling is the answer.

    Stories light up our brain and fire neurons in the same way as an actual physical action would.

    They arouse our emotions, stimulate learning, command attention and persuade action.

    The makeup of a well-crafted story comes down to interesting characters, relatable plots, and most importantly, a feeling of vulnerability and connection.

    So what about crafting a compelling story your audience will love?

    I’ve created an easy to remember story structure for you to take away and apply, called the 5C’s of Storytelling. (Kudos to the likes of Nancy Duarte, Seth Godin and Peter Guber for their inspiration.)

    1. Connect

    Part one of this story structure is about creating an emotional connection with your audience.

    We may think through things rationally, but we make decisions based on emotion.

    Emotion trumps rationality when push comes to shove.

    If you’re frightened, excited, hopeful, sad, it will take over your rational mind and influence you to make decisions that would not normally make sense.

    If you don’t tap into your reader’s emotions—that layer below the surface—engagement is impossible.

    That share, comment, opt-in or new customer becomes more distant than ever.

    People are crying out for stories, human connection and a peek below the hood of your tough exterior.

    Emotions help you build relationships with your audience. Relationships that last longer than the vanity-driven world of a Tweet or banner-ad click.

    If you connect personally with your audience, the relationship is a lifelong journey. It’s a partnership. And quite often one that will be very fruitful for your goals.

    If someone can crack a smile, shed a tear or throw their book/computer/kindle out the window—you’ve sparked an emotional reaction.

    One of my favorite examples of evoking emotion through storytelling is Ken Robinson’s now famous TED talk on education. In this enthralling 19-minute presentation, Robinson connects immediately with the audience through humor.

    So try and deliver your message to one person, keep it simple and be generous.

    This is your opportunity to personalize your story and have people locked in from start to finish.

    But is connecting enough?

    What good is building rapport and evoking emotion in your readers if it doesn’t inspire them to take action?

    You need to leverage this connection by narrowing in on an obstacle your readers hold close to their heart—which leads us to the second element of crafting a compelling story.

    2. Challenge

    The second part of the story structure is about highlighting a common pain point or challenge your audience is facing – with the goal of helping them overcome that challenge by the end of your story.

    So get to know your audience. I mean REALLY get to know them.

    What are their goals, dreams and desires? How can you help your readers move towards them?

    What about their fears and problems?

    Ask them what they like and dislike. Find out when they read, how they read and what type of content gets them going.

    Observe them from afar and see what they engage with, what they share and what they truly care about.

    Your writing should appeal to many but talk directly to only one person.

    Make them feel special.

    Highlight a core problem your audience has, and articulate how you (or your characters) were once burdened with the same challenge.

    Don Purdum from Unveil the Web does a great job of engaging his audience by proposing a common challenge they face head-on in his introduction:

    crafting a compelling story

    But even if you tap into a core problem or burning desire of your audience, why should they care?

    At this stage of your story, it’s too easy for them to disconnect from the narrative and say; “I can resonate, but I’m different.”

    Because everyone thinks they are different.

    To keep them hooked and begging for more, you need to make them really feel the pain.

    Telling them isn’t enough.

    It’s time to for the rollercoaster of conflict to begin.

    3. Conflict

    You want to establish the opposing forces that contribute to a less-than-favorable outcome for your audience.

    Use vivid details at this stage so your audience resonates with the characters in your story.

    Walk them through the worst parts of the problem they are trying to solve… All of the nasty symptoms and side-effects.

    What has stopped them from overcoming this challenge in the past?

    What are the competing priorities in their life that have held them back?

    How does it FEEL when they don’t overcome this challenge?

    Hop back and forth between the challenges, excuses, hurdles to them achieving their goals. And compound it with the desire to reach another destination.

    Provide glimmers of hope along the way…

    Here is an example from Jason Quey at The Storyteller Marketer filling his audience with a glimmer of hope when it comes to influencer marketing, even though the outcome still feels a bit beyond them:

    how to craft a compelling story
    Hope shouldn’t take over just yet, though. Introduce new hurdles that dampen these chances of success and remind them of how dire their current situation is and how horrible it can feel.

    Your audience should read this conflict and feel hopeless, ready to give up and emotionally drained.

    It sets them up for what is coming next when all their hardship withers away and they feel like their goals are within reach.

    4. Conquer

    Now it’s time to provide some hope.

    Show your audience how the characters have overcome the struggle presented. Give them the feeling that a positive outcome is possible.

    As the story develops, take your audience on a journey from “close to giving up” all the way through to the results, feelings or accolades that your characters achieve on the other side.

    You are putting your readers in the shoes of your characters, and making them feel like the solution to all their problems is in their hands.

    By this stage of your story, the reader is so emotionally bought into your character’s journey. They visualize themselves conquering their problems and achieving their goals.

    What results or examples can you provide to ride this message home?

    Don’t hold back. Convince your reader that everything is possible and glory is much closer than they first thought.

    Kevin Duncan from Be A Better Blogger has a way of always rounding out his blog posts with hope and inspiration. Here is an example:

    how to craft a compelling story

    The emotional rollercoaster is coming to an end, and your reader finally sees a resolution.

    They are inspired, ready and willing to take action… But what exactly should they do about it?

    Your job as a storyteller isn’t complete until you take your reader’s hand and guide them to the very next step they should take. Close out the narrative in a way that ties everything together.

    5. Conclude

    Deliver a resolution to the challenge, ending on a positive message the audience can take away.

    This is usually one part of a larger solution. (Especially if you are using storytelling to sell something.)

    But your job isn’t quite done.

    You need to guide your reader on to their next step.

    What is the very next thing they need to do to start the all-conquering journey themselves?

    Is there somewhere they should visit? What other resources would be helpful? Where can they get help or inspiration?

    I love this example from Ana Hoffman at Traffic Generation Cafe:

    crafting a compelling story

    Ana is offering hope to her readers that everything will be ok, and that their fears might have been unfounded. Plus, she is giving them an immediate next step to take.

    Wrap

    Stories will help you break down barriers and eliminate the sea of noise your readers are exposed to.

    The more personal you can make the experience, the greater the connection will be, and the better your results.

    It’s your job as a writer to evoke emotion and connection very early on in your story, otherwise, no one will read on.

    But that’s not enough.

    If you truly understand your audience, your story will create a visceral experience that magnifies a core challenge and creates a feeling of mental conflict.

    Until you resolve this conflict and empower your readers to conquer their demons, the story isn’t complete.

    Every step of the way, you are guiding your readers on a journey, an experience and an adventure until finally, you tell them exactly what they should do next.

    Keep your readers hooked for as long as you can, but when the time is right, hand over the reins and let others tell the story for you.

     

    About the author

      Will Blunt

      Will Blunt is the founder of Blogger Sidekick, a business who helps digital marketers build authority with the power of blogging. Will is also the editor at both JeffBullas.com and Bluewire Media. Download Will’s FREE bonus, the SEO Content Bundle to start creating the type of content search engines wants to send traffic.

    • A compelling story can be drawn many ways but the biggest thing is you want to build the audience up to care about the character and to see them self in the character their reading. I often start by trying to describe to someone how the old man walking down the dusty road looks. I tried to describe how the five senses impact the man. I describe how he smells after days and days of not bathing. How he looks and how his face looks worn from years and years of mis-care.
      Of course the essense of story our the characters and the conflict they encounter , if that can be weaved into a flow with proper description to the characters you can have something valuable.

    • Using stories is compelling, even more so than facts (which is surprising – check this study: http://goo.gl/W98Yzq)! Good post.

    • Hi Will! What a great idea! I liked reading all the tips you shared through your post! You inspired me to try writing a compelling story. All my previous attempts were unsuccessful, so I hope that your advices will help me to overcome the barrier of failures!
      Wish me luck!
      Keep sharing your posts

    • Hi Will,

      Loving each tip and I gotta say, authenticity wins.

      If you’re doing story telling right it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. Because it’s you being you. Telling your story. And linking your story to your audience’s emotions. Fish in a barrel time 😉

      I tell my story regularly because doing so inspires folks who dig my genuine nature to dig it even more. I have been through some wacky experiences, and so has our community. So they feel me, telling it as I saw it, and linking my experiences to their take.

      Some struggle to tell stories because they try so hard to be their readers, versus being themselves, empathizing, and becoming a world renowned brand because our stories are the 1 thing separating us from the hundreds of millions of blogs online.

      Thanks Will! Tweeting to a bunch of folks 😉

      Ryan

    • Karen Bissenden says:

      In a fiction short story in a collection of short stories the “market” reader may not be exactly the same in every story because, just a guess on my part, a writer tends to write from different points of view in different stories, so how does one put different people in the same shoes of one book
      ?

      • Will Blunt says:

        Hi Karen,

        Thanks for commenting… I’d love to answer your question in more depth, but I’m not a fiction author.

        Perhaps someone else who has experience in this space can share how they would address this challenge?

    • Thanks for this–so helpful. Storytelling is the hardest part of writing for me. I understand it’s importance, so I am working on this skill. Saving and sharing this post for sure.

      • Will Blunt says:

        Hey Ginger,

        You’re definitely not alone with that struggle… Keep at it.

        There’s nothing like a bit of trial and error, experimentation and hard work to refine a skill 🙂

    • Inspired. Thank you.

      • Will Blunt says:

        Thank you for taking the time to read and comment Pat

    • Lexa Cain says:

      Excellent article! You explained all the steps very well. I accomplished them in my last WIP, but the one I’m in the middle of needs more work. Thanks! (Tweeted)

    • Karen Bissenden says:

      In a fiction short story in a collection of short stories the “market” reader may not be exactly the same in every story because, just a guess on my part, a writer tends to write from different points of view in different stories, so how does one put different people in the same shoes of one book?

    • Laura Look says:

      Interesting approach. It sounds like copywriters would benefit from studying fiction-writing to learn techniques for building emotional response and conflict. Maybe we need a course for “Plot-building for Content Writers.”

      • Will Blunt says:

        Hey Laura,

        I’ve always thought that… It’s a great idea.

        It certainly feels like the best marketers and content writers have a way of building characters and developing plots – but a lot of us would love to know how to do it better. (Me included)

        I think I would sign up for that course!

    • Don Purdum says:

      Hi Will,

      Storytelling is vital to the human experience in everything we do. It’s what makes our content, compelling, interesting and inspiring.

      The key in my mind, no matter the form you take (humor, problem-solving, etc) is to get inside the mind of one person that you are solving a problem for, meeting a need of or fulfilling a desire.

      Once we are in their mind, we have to continually reference their experience.

      That’s the power of storytelling.

      It’s all about them and it has nothing to do with us.

      I agree with Ana’s sentiments, it’s not easy.

      I take my clients through a 5 questions that shows them the outline of how to create one article, for one person, and solve one problem/need/desire:

      1. What are the “specific” problems you are passionate about solving?
      2. What are the tangible values your customers experience and how do they feel about the experience?
      3. What are the “specific” problems you solve for each tangible value?
      4. Who are you “specifically” solve each problem for (in detail)?
      5. How are your products or services “a” part of “a” solution?

      If you can create one article and focus on one person… then you can create magical stories that connect, inspire and are relevant.

      Thanks so much for including me Will!!!

      What an incredible blessing.

      ~ Don Purdum

      • Will Blunt says:

        Wow Don, what a great insight into how you think about writing!

        Thanks for sharing…

        I love that you consider your mission to drill down on who you are talking to and make the content specifically for them.

        For me, when I’m sending out emails to my list – I know I’ve nailed the copy when I get a personal response from people as if they feel like it was written JUST for them.

        That’s the goal.

        You’re welcome for the mention.

    • PD Simeon says:

      Hey thanks for your excellent post, Will! I’m really excited about your blueprint because I often struggle to include stories in nonfiction.

      Somebody said to me, “This is a bit manipulative, isn’t it?” But I don’t think so. Your blueprint follows traditional story telling structures.

      • Will Blunt says:

        Hey PD,

        Thanks for the comment and good luck with crafting your stories from now on!

    • I am more than ever impressed through your approach of look in this blog. It shows your visualization. The 5C concept is really mind blowing.important attempt you take in through in this blog. Thanks for sharing.

      • Will Blunt says:

        Thanks for reading the post and taking the time to comment James 🙂

    • I completely get what you are saying, Will. I’ve always envied people who had a gift (yes, I consider it a gift!) to whip up a story to fit any occasion.

      I’ve never been one of those lucky natural storytellers. I’ve really tried to do it, too, but you know what? the second I stopped trying, Traffic Generation Café was born. There, I stopped forcing myself to do something not innate and started writing like I think and best receive information – bullet-point style. 😉

      Turned out that was exactly what many of my readers wanted to read, lucky me.

      So just as an encouragement to all other blogger lacking in storytelling department: there’s a place and readership for any writing style!

      Really did enjoy the post, Will. (and no, it didn’t hurt one bit to see my name in it 😉 thank you; honored.)

      • Will Blunt says:

        Ana,

        I know EXACTLY how you feel!

        Extremely envious of people that tell stories like it’s second nature. (Hence my attempt at creating a formula)

        If only we had as long to think about a verbal response as we do a blog post…

        And you’re most welcome for the mention.

        Generousity attracts generousity, and you’re one of the most generous bloggers I know 🙂


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