Do you like to read great stories in the form of novels? I do.
I have about 6-8 favorite authors that I read every book they write. John Grisham is one of those favorite authors of mine. Know what John Grisham teaches us about building a strong story?
More to learn: Use 8 Breathtaking Commercials That Employ Emotional Appeal
Everything you are exposed to makes a connection. It is how you put them together that makes things interesting.
Do you use stories to convey your marketing messages? Are you interested in building a strong story for your marketing messages? If so, you will want to check out these tips we have derived from many of John Grisham books.
This is a 2 part series. Here is Part 1: The Truth about Stories … Part 1 Tips for Better Story
Stories are a very integral part of being persuasive. If you want to persuade your customers and create a memorable experience at the same time, you must master building dynamite stories.
Related: Remarkable Stories Connect Emotionally.
The reason that stories are so appealing is that you can transport customers inside the story and give your message more meaning.
Do you agree that building compelling stories is the top business skill of the next five years, or will it take a bit more convincing to persuade you? Are you doing all you can now to hone your ability to build excellent story skills and acquire new ones?
Here are 12 ways to create a better story we have learned from John Grisham:
Parts to a story
Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel. If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction.
Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development. John Grisham does a great job of building his topics and characters in both of the beginning and middle sections of his novels.
Resolve your themes, mysteries and so on in the final third, the resolution.
What John Grisham teaches … build on your experience
To tell great stories, examine your life for times, places, and perspectives nobody else had. Where do you find material for storytelling? Draw from your experiences and look inside yourself. Rely on what you know and draw from it. Capture a thought, a truth from your experience, and specific values from deep down in your core.
Grisham is from Mississippi and went to law school at the University of Virginia. He uses his knowledge of these areas in many of his books. When you read about his experiences, it is as if you were there.
Good stories are largely an act of curation. The greats detect stories as they move through life and then pull them together in ways that make us stop and think. In a manner that inspires.
Create a strong theme
A strong theme is always running through a well-told story, The theme is often not stated directly in the story, but it is the essence or the core idea at the root of the story. A clear sense of your theme or controlling idea keeps you from trying to throw too many ideas into one story.
What John Grisham teaches … create a challenge and conflict
Good stories are about problem or conflict. Without these elements, stories aren’t very interesting. In its most basic form, a story is about someone who wants something, and either gets it or does not. That character’s desire brings out the conflict that moves a story forward. The appearance of the conflict is the beginning; the resolution is its ending.
The compelling part of a story is how people deal with conflict–-so start with the people and the conflict. In Grisham’s books, it is hard to separate the challenges from the characters. That is what you want to create in your stories.
Start working on your ending as soon as possible
Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
In Grisham’s earliest novels he struggled with his endings. Later you can tell the story revolved around the end. To accomplish this, he had to work out his ending early in the process.
Raise questions. Provide the “bait.” The anecdote should raise an issue right from the beginning. Implied in any matter that you raise, however, is that you are going to answer it. Consistently raise questions and answer them. The shape of the story is that you are throwing out issues and explaining them along the way.
Give characters personality and opinions
Give your characters a unique personality and views on various topics. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal? I have rarely read a Grisham book that I could not picture the characters, their personalities, and appreciate their opinions. This adds significantly to the stories.
Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
What John Grisham teaches … tap into your audience’s emotions
Whenever I am fortunate enough to read one of Grisham books, I am struck by their power to pull listeners in, much like a gravitational force that’s impossible to resist.
The best way to draw your audience in is to make them care … emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically. But how do you make the audience care? This is the most fundamental question of all. There is no single answer. One important answer is having empathy for your audience and trying to craft your story and design your content always with the public in mind.
Stories in all their many forms are never just about transferring information alone. We are emotional beings, like it or not, and to make the audience care enough to listen to you, you have to evoke in them some emotion.
What John Grisham teaches … build mystery and surprise
A well-told story is one where you can stop at any point and have the reader wonder “….and then what happened?” Each time a piece of the mystery is solved, another one appears, and that’s what keeps us listening until we reach the ending. If you find yourself struggling at times, step back and find some mystery.
Use language to show and not tell
Show and don’t depend just on telling. Intensify the story with vivid language and intonation. Tap into people’s emotions with language. Use metaphors, idioms, and parables that have emotional associations.
“Show the readers everything, tell them nothing.” – Ernest Hemingway
Be creative. Create a storyboard; draw it out. A good story always has ups and downs, so “arc” the story. Pull people along, and introduce tension, just like in a fairy tale. There is rarely anything in a Grisham novel that is standard fare; it is always creatively unique.
Employ curiosity at end
Great stories pull readers past the obvious (but wrong) to show them the profound. You don’t have to beat people over the head with your message, nor do you need always to make your message painfully obvious. This is not about being vague or unclear, but it is about letting the audience work on their own a little to figure things out … creating some curiosity.
That’s one of your jobs as one who creates a story. We’re born problem solvers. We’re compelled to deduce and to deduct because that’s what we do in real life. It’s this well-organized absence of information that draws us in.
The bottom line
Remember … stories are an excellent means of sharing and interpreting experiences, and great experiences have this innate ability to change the way in which we view our world.
Stories, when properly practiced, pull people into a dialogue. It’s about engagement and interaction. The audience is just as active a participant as the storyteller. In contrast, many companies and brands still relentlessly push messages to their employees and into the marketplace without meaningful context or relevancy.
Next time you are building a marketing campaign, use a great story made from these tips.
Stories can be incorporated effectively in this way by utilizing them in your content marketing efforts, especially if you use case studies and interviews to tell your tales and present your messages for you.
Are you incorporating stories into your copy? Are you utilizing them in your marketing?
So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is there is no conclusion. There is only the next step. And that next step is entirely up to you.
Do you have a lesson about making your learning better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?
It’s up to you to keep improving your ability to learning to learn. Lessons are all around you. In many situations, your competitor may be providing the ideas and or inspiration. But the key is in knowing that it is within you already.
It’s up to you to keep improving your continuous learning from all around in your environment.
All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that struggle gets better every day you learn and apply new lessons.
When things go wrong, what’s most important is your next step.
Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
Are you devoting enough energy continually improving your continuous learning?
Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change. We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.
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The Truth about Stories … Part 2 What John Grisham Teaches