A book club to improve storytelling
26 May 2020
We all know that storytelling is a powerful tool. If you want to create captivating stories for your brand, put down those business books and turn to fiction writers instead. At Appear Here, we've set up a book club to help our community make the best use of storytelling as they start planning their stores reopening. We only have 15 spaces, so apply here as soon as possible.
Storytelling has become all the rage.
In most startup books, the first tip is: “Craft your story.” In big companies such as Amazon, Jeff Bezos orders his leadership team to write ‘narratives’ rather than Power Points. Has the business world become poetic overnight? Or is it just a fad?
For entrepreneurs, knowing how to craft compelling narratives is essential to get investors, employees and customers to rally behind their ideas. Long-lasting brands know that a product without a powerful story is just a commodity.
If storytelling is essential, why do most business stories fall flat? People pay to read novels or watch movies. How many would pay to watch an ad or hear about your business?
Business stories fail because they don't actually feel like stories. Is it perhaps because these narratives follow advice from business books published by people who never wrote a real story?
Rather than business books, you’ll gain much more insight from fiction and screenwriters. At Appear Here, we're going to run a virtual book club to help our community tell better stories online and in store. Here are three books to get you started:
Into the Woods by John Yorke
Yorke has written some of the UK’s most popular TV shows, from Shameless and Life On Mars to EastEnders and Holby City. In this book, he explores how stories work and why we tell them. It has tons of great tips, but there’s one that would particularly improve business stories: “Niceness tends to kill characters – if there is nothing wrong with them, nothing to offend us, then there’s almost certainly nothing to attract our attention either. Much more interesting are the rough edges, the darkness – and we love these things because though we may not consciously want to admit it, they touch something deep inside us.” Most adverts show an idyllic world. But, as Yorke warns, if there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing to grab our attention.
Story by Robert McKee
This book is considered the bible for screenwriters. McKee examines what makes a story compelling, or not. The following piece of advice explains why lots of business presentations are boring: “If what the audience expects to happen happens, or worse, if it happens the way the audience expects it to happen, this will be a very unhappy audience. We must surprise them.” Most business communication strives to be predictable, and with good reason: predictability builds trust. But at the same time, nobody wants to watch a story if they already know who will live and who will die. Spoiler alerts are bad. Not just for Netflix, but also for your pitch or brand’s story.
Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories by various authors
This collection of very short fictions illustrates some of the best techniques to tell a story. These pieces are less than 750 words long and were weaved by writers who revolutionised contemporary literature, from Raymond Carver and Margaret Atwood to Julio Cortázar and Tim O'Brien. This exceptional curation will teach you many techniques to bring your writing to life. Take, for example, the beginning of this story by Richard Shelton: "I love going out on summer nights and watching the stones grow." The stones... grow? Does this opening sentence make you want to keep reading? When did that last happen with your website or Instagram post?
The learnings from these books can be easily applied to business, either to improve your brand, refine your pitch or make your presentation more lively.
If you're interested, Appear Here will host a virtual book club that will meet every two weeks to discuss excerpts from storytelling books and how they can be applied to your brand. We’ll also touch on how these insights can translate into the physical world and how storytelling works in stores. Each session will require some pre-reading, but it'll be no more than 40 pages every two weeks. We only have 15 spaces, so apply here as soon as possible.