Think of a story, any story.
How about Cinderella, for instance.
If you remember it, what does that story bring up right away in your mind? If we examine the Cinderella story closely we see three basic elements …
- The sequence
- The suspense
- The roller coaster
I argue that these same elements exist in every great story, and that it’s crucial that you write and use stories in your content marketing efforts as a way to differentiate yourself from the mass of mediocre media publishers out there.
So how do you do it, particularly if you’re not a visionary like Walt Disney?
Let’s take a look at each of these three elements in the Cinderella story, and how you can use them to your advantage …
1. The sequence
We have the daughter who’s mistreated and made to do menial work in the kitchen.
Then there’s the other daughters romping about, having a great old time, doing what spoiled daughters do. These ladies fancy their romantic and social climbing chances with the prince.
But things don’t go their way, and in turn, Cindy manages to get a fairy godmother. And blah, blah, blah.
There’s a sequence of events building into each other here. But a good story must have some drama, some suspense.
2. The suspense
Suspense follows us all around the storyline …
Cinderella’s mother dies and she’s doomed to sleeping near the fireplace (which is how she gets the name, Cinderella).
But the fairy godmother appears from the blue — and suspense builds, because now Cinderella has a chance like everyone else. Will she make it? Won’t she?
She does. And then, just as Cindy’s hitting it off with the Prince, the clock goes nuts and her life is miserable once more.
What on earth is happening? What’s with this girl? Is she just going to be a loser?
Yup, that’s all suspense.
3. The roller coaster
Good times, then bad. Then good, then bad.
Your story doesn’t have to swing wildly, but it helps to have contrast, because contrast changes the pace of the story.
So, just as things are really yucky, along comes the knight in shining armour.
Or, just as things are looking great, an avian flu threatens to kill the entire population.
Cinderella’s fortunes seem to bounce up and down, which keeps the interest in the story.
Now let’s head over to your story …
Every piece of story content you write must have a clear sequence, because without sequence a story has no meaning.
But what about suspense? You have to insert a certain amount of suspense. It’s always there in your story, but when you insert a ‘what the heck is happening’ factor, you instantly build suspense.
And finally there’s the roller coaster. If your story has been coasting with the fairies for a while, then it’s time to bring out the ogres — and vice versa.
Two reasons why this kind of storytelling is critical
1. Most writers are unable to capture the core elements of a story.
Even if they get the sequence right, they rarely build in suspense or the roller coaster. That’s because they aren’t aware of these elements, or just don’t know how to go about it.
But you, you can practice and get a lot better.
2. Most articles are almost always how-to or reporter-like.
This means that your story articles will automatically stand out when compared to the millions of other articles on the Internet.
Because most writers avoid this kind of storytelling, your articles will be instantly more appealing, and different.
Does it have to be a story?
Your content doesn’t have to be a pure story to take advantage of these three persuasive elements.
For instance, case studies naturally contain the same three elements, but you still have to work with the suspense and the roller coaster in that format.
The key factor is to realize that you’re already off to a brilliant start with a story because you have the advantage of a logical sequence of compelling events.
And with a bit of practice, suspense and the roller coaster will become part of your case-study (or storytelling).
Kids sit in rapt attention when listening to the story of Cinderella
No matter how many times you tell the story, they’re keen as mustard to hear it again.
Now you know why, and you can take the same elements and use it in your articles.
Great storytelling isn’t easy to achieve, but with practice, and a focus on the core elements, you can begin to build the kinds of stories for your product or service that spread and sell.
Then your audience will have that same mustardy-feeling too.
About the Author: Sean D'Souza runs a zany marketing site at Psychotactics and deconstructs headlines in his spare time. Learn how to assemble (and audit) your headlines in seconds with Sean's powerful headline report, when you subscribe to the Psychotactics Newsletter. And don't miss his binge-worthy, music-filled podcast, The Three Month Vacation.