Posted by: Debbra Dunning Brouillette | July 8, 2010

I am a storyteller…

I am a storyteller. I hadn’t thought of myself that way until a few years ago when I participated in a networking workshop. We were asked to develop a “30-second commercial,” as it’s often referred to in networking circles – an “elevator speech.” The point is to be able to communicate what you “do” in a concise way… to paint a word picture that someone who has never met you can relate to.

And so I began thinking of how to best communicate what I do for my clients. The main goal of what I have done throughout my writing career is, essentially, to tell stories. When writing a people profile, my goal is to provide a snapshot of who the person is within a certain word limit. Since a good portion of my career has been spent writing for healthcare, my goal has often been to tell the story of a patient’s successful surgery, or to inform others about the benefits of an advance in medical technology.

When I was writing for a travel agency, I told the stories of the trips taken by agents and customers to exotic places – an African safari, a European cruise, or a stay at a Montana dude ranch. Wherever their travels had taken them, my assignment was to communicate their experiences in a way that would inform and inspire others to perhaps book a similar journey.

Telling others’ stories often requires writing with the “voice” of another. Writing with a corporate voice for a business is very different, for example, than writing for an individual. As a co-author or ghostwriter, the ability to become the “voice” of the first-person story being told is critical. I must tell the story from his or her point of view, in words that sound like the author. Editing words already written by another is another form of storytelling, although the essence of the story already exists and my role is to not only clean up spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but to improve the story, smooth out the rough edges, and make it more compelling to the reader.

Marketing and advertising agencies have long been aware that good stories sell products and services. The “just the facts, ma’am,” type of advertising may work when shopping for a new washing machine, but who doesn’t love a good story to go along with the facts? I remember some of the best classic commercials because a character was developed and a story told in 30 or 60 seconds. How about the Maytag repairman… or are you too young to remember? Then there were the longer Hallmark commercials that could tug at your heartstrings. Here are a couple of classic ones:

While I am not an ad copywriter, I appreciate good storytelling when I read, see, or hear it. Stories can evoke an emotional response because we can see ourselves in someone else’s situation. Memories are often tied to stories we heard or read long ago. We remember and retell the story, while the facts can become fuzzy.

Facts and figures may be very important to the story you have to tell, but unless a story is woven into the fabric of the facts, very few people will remember what you have told them. Stories can make statistics come alive. Charts and graphs without supporting information that is interesting, engaging, even emotional when appropriate, will fall flat, going in one eye and ear and out the other.

I am the kind of storyteller who strives to get to the heart of things. I ask all the “W” questions: who, what, when, where, and why, not in the role of news reporter, but as a way to get to the inside core of the story.

Who are you trying to reach with your message?

What is the purpose of telling your story?

What are the most important points to include?

When does it need to be told (timing can be everything) and where (in what format)?

Why does your story need to be told? Is it to sell something, build awareness, or inspire someone to action?

No matter what type of story I am telling, I want it to resonate with both the reader and the person who has come to me to help tell it. On my website, www.wordjourneys.net, I equate “story” with “word journey.”

Your word journey may be in the form of a book project, a newsletter, blog, brochure, press kit, or other means of business or personal communication. Whether you are struggling over writing a one-page letter, or have a more ambitious journey in mind, I am prepared to take my expertise and love of storytelling on a trip into your unfamiliar territory. I will help you navigate the curves and avoid the bumps in the road. Whatever your destination may be, I can help you tell your story without the agony, without the stress, and with the assurance that you will say, “That’s just the way I would have written it, if I only had a way with words!”

Your story is waiting to be told! Find out more about my storytelling past and the projects I’ve completed at www.wordjourneys.net.

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Responses

  1. Debbie, you are getting better and better. I wish you the very best on your ‘word journey’ and am honored to call you ‘friend’. Can’t wait to see you when you visit.


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