February 26 is Tell a Fairy Tale Day. You probably don’t have any celebrations lined up. In fact, you may even be wondering why we’re talking about fairy tales on a business writing blog. Are fairy tales, or storytelling in general, relevant to the modern business writer?
To answer these questions, let’s first discuss why fairy tales are popular in the first place. While fairy tales are usually associated with children, the popularity of prime time television shows that celebrate fairy tale characters suggests that maybe adults still enjoy hearing new spins on their childhood stories.
Here are just a few reasons why stories and fairy tales are so popular:
- Fairy tales teach lessons. Which does a four-year-old remember better: a set of rules, or Cinderella’s pleasant attitude while working? Stories help people relate rules or lessons to life situations. Seeing a character live out a principle gives it validity and an example in a child’s (or adult’s) mind. They show what to believe and what to do.
- Fairy tales help us retain facts. Many of us were told the story of George Washington chopping down his father’s cherry tree and refusing to lie about it. Although this story is a myth, most of us still remember it as showing that Washington was a man of integrity. Stories give a point of reference and thereby help us remember facts.
- Fairy tales (and other stories) stimulate the brain. According to a New York Times article, recent studies have shown that vivid descriptions, such as those found in fiction stories, affect more areas of the brain than nonfiction writing does. The response is actually very similar to firsthand experiences, meaning it’s the next best thing to living out the story itself.
In addition to my work as a writer/editor, my husband and I run a photography business. When it comes to contracts, our clients usually don’t understand the legal jargon (I have a hard time with it, too!). When we get to the Right of Withdrawal clause, we explain it like this: “If we got to your wedding and you had a fireworks display on a pile of nuclear weapons, we’d feel uncomfortable and have to leave. We’d give you your money back, but we’d have a right to leave.”
At that point a light goes on in the bride’s heads, she laughs, and we go on with the contract. We could have just read the lines word for word, but our little story taught a lesson (don’t put your photographer in danger), helped our clients retain the facts (her photographer has a contractual right to leave in extenuating circumstances), and stimulated the brain (the bride could see the lights of the fireworks and possibly imagine the effects of the nuclear weapon). She won’t forget that clause soon!
Here are a few ways you can use stories in your own business writing to evoke the response you want from your readers.
- Illustrations/metaphors. Help your audience understand concepts through illustrations or metaphors. Describe the idea instead of simply telling it.
- Anecdotes. Tell your readers how your topic affected you or a client. Or talk about the way you decided to open your business. A short anecdote will engage your audience and help them relate your topic to real life.
- Blog posts. Use stories of recent business experiences to make personal, interesting, and current blog posts. These are great not only for engaging an audience but also for improving your search engine optimization.
- Testimonials. You can tell readers that your clients love you, but they’ll be much more likely to believe it if they have proof. Ask your clients to provide stories of how you’ve helped them, and post these testimonials on your website for potential customers to see.
Remember, the best stories are the ones written with professionalism and style. If you’d like help creating stories for your business, contact us.
What was your favorite story when you were a child? Why do you think you remember it so well? Tell us about it in a comment below.