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The Power of Nonfiction SHOW and not Tell Stories

Stories are the connection for all of humanity—April Tribe Giauque.

Connection. The bonding that glues humanity together. How is it done? It is always done through the power of a good story. Stories can drill a hole into our hearts and drain our love like the color of our cheeks. They can also plug the hole with grit perseverance and fill our souls with fire that ignites others. Stories have absolute power.

Attention all Non-fiction writers!

Do you harvest this power within your storytelling, or do you merely tell us stories, hoping your readership will connect? If it is that latter, I have three tips to share that will make a difference in the books you write.

Tip # 1: Use the 5 Senses For Connection

What is the difference between these two sentences? 1) The dog was happy to see me when I came home, or 2) I was greeted with wet nose kisses and a thumping tail against the door casing. Which do you connect with and why? Ah! The second sentence. You could see it, hear it, and feel it. This is a massive part of show not tell. It creates a visual background and connection to your reader.

How can your readers emotionally connect with you if you don’t invest in them but spend the time insulting them (telling them everything and not allowing them to enjoy the written word?) Readers will leave. They will get bored. They will not review or recommend your book because they did not connect.

For example, if your story shares the tragedy of a miscarriage, help the reader experience the emotion and pain you went through, not just the facts, or say, “I was devastated.” That might be true! I bet you would be devastated, but show me. Make me cry. Make me invest in you.

One might think that you have to get all flowery and dive into a depth of description. No, that is not what I’m saying.


Authors, please show your stories. I have edited several nonfiction books, and the biggest challenge I have is convincing the author to emotionally invest in the development and spend it on their reader. Specific topics can lend themselves to deeper connections than others; however, if you have written a business book and only show facts and tables (even though that might be super important), the reader will not remember them.

Stories are a communal currency of humanity. —Tahir Shah, in Arabian Nights

Tip # 2 Create an Emotional connection In People

All great stories need to create emotional connections in people. Why is that? Mary Catherine Bateson said it like this,

The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.”

Your readers want to feel the pain you experienced when you lost your child. They want to experience deep joy when your mom overcame the odds and beat cancer. Or they can feel the bond of affection you have between you and your four-legged friend through the body language of the animal.

People buy on emotion, and then they justify with logic. So, If you want them to buy, change their emotional state”—Jim Edwards.

When clients, readers, or anyone connects with you, they will most likely purchase your work and any subsequent work. Bring them into your world, your pain, tragedy, and then inspire them with your hope, service, or solution. This is the essence of connection.

Tip # 3- Use Emotion to Tell the Right Story

Readers read stories for information, for escape, and for knowledge. People take their cue from your words, so whatever emotion you want people to feel, you need to convey that emotion. Tell them a good story.

Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.—Hannah Arendt.

I love this quote because it summarizes the meaning so precisely. Defining things is telling, so please avoid it when you are sharing stories. If you were to look back at your writing, do you feel the itch to go back and make some edits? If yes, then this article has made a connection with you.

Where do you go from here?

As an author, how can you move forward and take these three tips into your writing power?

1. Target the five senses and show it: I was excited (tell). My heart was banging against my ribcage when I saw the number of books sold (show).

2. The story should connect with the reader and not bore them. (Beuhler! Beuhler!-Anybody? Anybody?) Sorry, did you fall asleep? If you are a boring storyteller or did not connect, your audience will shut your book and put their limited attention elsewhere.

3. Tell the right story. They are reading your book for a reason, so bring them in, fill them up, and they will be loyal.

The bottom line, show them a better story that leads to more connections. Connections will bring your readership more leadership, change of mindset, and opportunities, for all.

Forever Shining!


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