Let me tell you a story…

What do you think good writing is?

We know that fiction writing is all about telling stories. But what about other kinds of writing? Is business-focussed copywriting about stories?

You bet it is.

Here’s a challenge: find a piece of writing that you find interesting from start to finish, that doesn’t tell a story. I don’t think you’ll be able to.

And that’s because our brains are wired to want to read and listen to stories.

Storytelling and Ideas

Stories catch our imagination. They invite us in. They make us part of their world.

As well as copywriting, I write fiction and I coach other fiction writers. Recently, I wrote this blog about the ‘Seven Basic Plots’ theory in fiction writing. This theory says that there are just seven stories in the world, told over and over.

And it got me thinking.

We take it for granted that storytelling is right at the heart of fiction writing. It’s impossible to separate the two. But not everyone feels the same way about business content and copywriting. Why? And are they right?

Telling stories in copywriting

They’re not right. But still, many people feel that business is not about stories. Stories are about fun, not about making money, their thinking goes.

But the fact is, stories sell.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at this. Written in 1926 by copywriter John Caples, it is one of the most famous advertisements ever written. The style might be of its time, but the idea behind it is timeless. John Caples knew that people get drawn in and engaged by good storytelling.

And when they’re engaged, they’re interested. When they’re interested, they’re more likely to buy.

Just stories?

When clients approach me with a project, it’s usually because they want to sell something. That could be products, services, or ideas. They might not want ‘sales copy’ in the sense that a sales letter is sales copy. They might want a company report or a blog. But no-one employs a copywriter unless they want to persuade someone else to do or think something.

That’s why stories are so important. A story grabs your attention with its beginning, engages you with its middle, and leaves you thinking at the end. In the case of good copywriting, it should leave you thinking about doing something: like pressing the ‘buy’ button, calling in to a store or sending off for a brochure.

It’s not surprising really. We’ve been telling stories since the days of Beowulf, and no doubt long before. As children, we are fascinated by picture books and bedtime stories long before we can read. Bestselling novels sell millions of copies and are turned into films that pull millions into cinemas.

There’s no doubt that people love stories. If your website, brochure, email or sales letter doesn’t tell a story, then it’s not going to get people’s attention.

If our brains are wired to respond to stories, it makes sense to tell stories when we want people to respond.

I’ll talk more about particular storytelling techniques and copywriting in my next blog. In the mean time, email me at alice@alicecuninghame.co.uk to find out more about how I can help your business grow…by telling stories.