Why stories are so important

Reading time: About 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss an article on why stories are so important by Mathilda Harris…

I regularly lead workshops for corporate communicators on how to write better, faster. One of my “set pieces” is on how and why they should include more stories in their writing.

Occasionally, I encounter resistance — especially from science-oriented folks who wonder what possible role story-telling could play in their work. I explain to them that all readers are human beings, and that humans are hard-wired to respond to stories. Think of how Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet and Richard Branson all work/ed stories into their presentations. (And, for comparison, you might want to read this cogent analysis — by novelist Junot Diaz — of President Obama’s apparent inability to tell stories.)

Recently, I discovered a blog post by Mathilda Harris arguing why grant-seekers — these would be people working for academic or other non-profit organizations — should also use story-telling. For me, her sub-heads capture the core of her argument:

  • A good story is one that you love, and love to tell
  • A good story needs both conflict and resolution
  • A good story has to have substance
  • A good story involves the audience
  • A good story is perfect for your audience

I also appreciated her conclusion, in which she wrote:

The difference between a good story and a superficial one is that the latter provides too easy a solution. To avoid this, your interventions should be innovative, make a real and tangible difference, and touch the lives of your beneficiaries in a meaningful way.

If you ever have to write grant proposals, be sure to read her entire post.