How to Write Power Stories, Part 1
We all know telling a good story engages readers and gets them emotionally involved so that they feel compelled to send a gift to your organization.
But simply being advised to “tell a story” is pretty empty advice without some concrete guidance about what kind of story to tell and how to tell it. So, over the next few weeks, I'll offer some nuts-and-bolts advice to help you pick your stories and make them come alive for your readers.
But before we even begin writing, let’s start with some techniques that will put you into a more creative frame of mind.
“Writing’s not that easy,” says a Grammarly ad, in a stunning display of understatement. Especially when your writing needs to sound less like a dry statement of facts and more like a powerful and inspiring narrative.
But how do you find that spark that elevates your writing from, as Mark Twain would say, “the lightning bug to the lightning?” How do you inspire yourself when inspiration seems to have dried up and wafted away?
Happily, it's not that hard if you know a few tricks that will unleash the hidden creative areas of your brain. Here are five of the many techniques you can use to tap into your own deep well of creativity.
- Spend time in creative environments. Step outside your routine and stroll through a museum or library. Take a walk in the woods or just enjoy your lunch on a park bench and let your mind wander. You’ll be surprised how many fresh ideas it picks up along the way.
- Use image searches to trigger creative associations. If you’re a visual thinker, and most people say they are, browsing online images often sparks new ideas. Choose a search term similar to your topic, or type in something completely random for a whole new way of looking at what you’re writing about.
- Let ideas simmer on the back burner. Think how many great ideas pop into your head at 2 a.m. or when you are in the shower. If you get stuck when you’re writing copy, try putting the project aside overnight — or even until after lunch — and you’ll be surprised at the great ideas that come to you when you’re thinking of something else.
- Grab a pen and paper. Writing longhand pulls you away from online platforms designed to be psychologically stimulating and distracting. This lets you focus more deeply so all those ideas hiding deep in your subconscious can bubble up into your consciousness and spill out onto your paper.
- Treat your writing as an end unto itself. Science Writer Shin Jie Yong says, “Write because you are a writer, not because of extrinsic rewards like money or recognition.” In your first draft, focus only on the writing. Allow yourself to get lost in the creative process.
Those “left brain” considerations — approvals, strategy, specs, results, etc. — are critical, of course. But deal with them before you write and after you start editing. Don’t let them paralyze you when you’re pounding out your initial ideas with passion and heart.
Next time, we’ll look at how seemingly insignificant details can add color and depth that will make your story come alive for your readers. Meanwhile, happy writing!
Willis believes in expressive writing, exceptional fundraising, and exuberant living.
Willis Turner is the senior copywriter at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He was an experienced writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 20 years before making the switch to fundraising nearly 15 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, as well as collateral materials and communications, that get attention, tell emotional stories, and persuade people to take action or make a donation.