Writers face several challenges when they need to explain complex or niche content to a wide or varied audience. First, there is the challenge of capturing an audience’s attention, then getting that audience to understand the concepts, and holding their attention through the end of your piece.
One of the best ways to convey complex content is through different storytelling tools. By getting personal or giving readers something to which they can relate, writers can help wide audiences understand concepts and retain important information.
While statistics and data can be useful in illustrating points, the information can also be read as dry and not interesting enough to hold the attention of common audiences. If you want to give your writing a little “pep”, using a relatable story, anecdote, or case study can help your piece sound less academic and tedious.
Here are some ways to bring a little vibrancy into your writing through the tool of storytelling.
Showing Your Expertise
One of the best ways to highlight yourself as an expert in your field is to tell a story that involves the use of your expertise or illustrates how you may be an expert. Personal stories give depth to a person’s life experience and can be more interesting than stats and data sets.
People can easily tune out and miss expertise from an author if it is buried beneath an onslaught of data and numbers. However, when given personal stories or examples from the expert, readers are more apt to pay attention and recall the information.
Know Your Audience
Every writer knows that they need to know their audience before a word is written. For storytelling to work well and connect the way it is intended, you must know who you are writing for in the first place by clearly defining your intentions and goals in sharing your story.
Does your audience appreciate a story told with humor or are they looking for something emotionally evocative? By diving into who your audience may be and what kind of storytelling will resonate with them the best, you will better connect with your readers.
One example of knowing your audience is when you are writing about technology-related subjects. Some tech subjects can get complex and, as a writer, you need to know if your audience is tech-savvy or if they require plain language to grasp complicated concepts. Oftentimes, the outlet for which you are writing can give insight into who that audience might be.
Avoid Getting “Bogged Down” in Research and Data
Research and data are often required when writing on complex topics, but one should avoid getting too deep in the weeds with research, data sets, or statistics. These factors are important for complicated topics, but readers can easily become overwhelmed and subsequently disconnected from the topic under the weight of too much data.
Statistics and data sets can also be divisive, as one Forbes article found. “From a communication standpoint, statistics can inspire a behavior called ‘rejecting the premise’,” Chris Westfall wrote in the article. Statistics may even start arguments, while stories can be less definitive and more subjective.
While statistics and data can inform, they don’t paint as clear a picture as a well-told story can, which is why stories tend to be more persuasive in many cases. Research and data that support the topic without getting too heavy can accompany the storytelling aspects of your writing, creating a comprehensive piece that gets the point across in an engaging way.
Storytelling the Right Way
Storytelling can be used in several ways within informative writing. For example, if you are interviewing a subject, you should collect as many personal stories as possible to support the interviewee as an expert in their field and draw the interest of an audience to their work. Interview subjects that share deeply personal accounts can help put a human face to complex topics.
Case studies can also work to illustrate complex information, especially within more data-driven industries such as healthcare or tech. You can express that a new medical breakthrough is successful, but telling the stories of real people with experience relative to the breakthrough is far more impactful.
Case studies can also work in business settings where a startup is trying to convey that its customers have been satisfied with the product or service that the business provides. This use of case studies can help add credibility to a claim and help people feel more confident in supporting an idea or a company.
Metaphors and similes are also effective storytelling devices, as many people will see a complex topic through a different lens. Using comparative language or analogies can help people better grasp concepts.
Finally, creating scenarios within your writing — even if they are fictionalized or hypothetical — can help readers better relate to your subject matter. Storytelling through scenarios can be especially helpful if you are writing about something that hasn’t been fully tested or is a novel concept. There may not be real-life stories that abound concerning your subject, but a talented writer can create a scenario that can just as easily help readers grasp concepts as a true story would.
People have proven that connection to true stories drives them to become more engaged and interested in certain subjects. Through thoughtful storytelling, complex subject matter can be better understood and writers can connect with their readership on a higher level.