Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tell Me a Story: Using Stories to Convey Your Message-Sue Badeau

The phone rang in the middle of the night. Recognizing my son’s number, I quickly sat up in bed and answered. “Mom, I need your recipe for those ‘little chickens’ you make for Valentine’s Day.” He said as soon as he heard my voice. “Little chickens?” My sleepy brain was confused, “This is the emergency you woke me up for?”

This story never fails to get a laugh when I share it with an audience. But as I continue with the story, it drives home the point that you are never too old to need a mom in your life, whether you want a recipe or face a life-or-death emergency. This story conveys the lifelong importance of adoption much better than any other facts or data possibly can do.

You’ve probably been in these shoes. You have an important message. You’ve distilled it to the 3-5 most important points. You want your readers to reflect upon it, remember it and be transformed by it. Telling stories that connect heart, mind and spirit is one of the most effective ways to do this.

Consider Biblical truths that have stuck with you over the years. If you’re like me, many are drawn from the parables of Jesus. The gospels record more than three dozen parables spoken by Jesus! In both the old and new Testaments God used story upon story to demonstrate his love, messages and expectations for us.

Here are my top three tips for using stories to convey deeper messages:

Be Specific: Bible stories are both local and universal, time-specific and timeless. God’s stories involve everyday people doing everyday things. Each story-teller from Genesis through the New Testament told stories that fit into the historic, geographic, political and cultural context of the immediate listeners. Your stories will resonate with your readers when you set them in a “time and place” context that is specific, concrete and relatable to day-to-day life.

Be Purposeful: Knowing your purpose for sharing a particular story will help you determine the length, structure and details to include. If your goal is to teach an important point that you want your readers to remember and reflect upon later when facing challenging real-life situations, your story should offer a memorable visual picture while also evoking strong emotions that touch the heart.

If the purpose for your story is to motivate your readers to take action, your story has to demonstrate the impact of the desired actions. When I write about the impact of trauma on children, one of my goals is to motivate readers to do something different when they see behaviors that might possibly be triggered by trauma. I use stories that show – not tell- both the “before” and “after” effects on a child. I want the reader to walk away with the thought, “I could do that too.”

Have fun: Your reader will enjoy your stories a whole lot more if you enjoy them first. Be playful, have fun, smile as your write. The more that you actually like your characters and their activities, the more your readers will relate to them and look forward to reading the next sentence, paragraph and page.

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  1. Sue, I love these helpful points about becoming a better writer. You sound like you have an amazing family.

    1. June, thank you for your comment. I always love getting tips from other writers. It helps me every day in my writing!