3 Writing Lessons From Storycraft By Jack Hart

Being able to craft a good story is an invaluable skill

That’s especially true if you’re an entrepreneur or marketer.

You have to be able to tell a story that entertains, informs and persuades.

Telling it in just the right way that gets your point across while not being boring.

But storytelling is hard.

And telling a story that people actually want to listen to or read is really hard. But it can be learned.

Storycraft Is A Masterclass In Writing Nonfiction Stories

Like the subtitle says, it really is a complete guide to writing narrative nonfiction.

It covers everything you need to know, from how to structure a story, to point of view, character development and formulas for writing different kinds of pieces.

Jack Hart goes in depth and does a great job teaching with simple, clear explanation and plenty of examples.

There were 3 main lessons that I took away from the book.

The importance of theme statements

Every story should have a point. Unfortunately, many don’t.

To make sure yours do, try crafting a theme statement before you start writing. A theme statement is just a short statement that explains the point you’re trying to make.

It’ll give your story direction and help you know when emphasize certain parts to match the theme.

For example, let’s say I’m writing a story about Lance Armstrong winning the Tour de France 7 times.

If my theme statement is “perseverance leads to victory” I can talk about the grueling training he had to endure and how hard he had to push himself to win.

If my theme is “you can overcome any obstacle” I’ll emphasize his battle with cancer.

And if my theme statement is “cheaters may win in the short term but lose in the long run” I’ll talk about his PED use and how his legacy is forever tarnished.

It’s the same story of how Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France 7 times. But the theme statement guides how I tell the story.

It tells me what parts of the story to emphasize and what parts aren’t important to the point I’m trying to make.

How to craft a narrative arc

The way you structure your story has a dramatic impact on how it’s received.

From the great American novel to Hollywood movies, all great stories have the same key story elements arranged in a similar pattern.

They start with an exposition phase, where you learn the main characters and enough background information to understand the direction of the story.

Then there’s the rising action which creates dramatic tension as the plot unfolds. The rising action builds up to a crisis that has to be overcome, where everything hangs in the balance.

That’s followed by a climax where the crisis is resolved – the main character either triumphs or is defeated by the obstacle.

And finally there’s a falling action where the story is wound down and unanswered questions are resolved.

The way Jack Hart explained the narrative arc, really helped some things click for me and I have no doubt it’ll make my storytelling better.

Why you should use bookend narrative in your articles

When we write “how-to” articles, the information by itself is usually pretty boring.

The best way to get people to consume boring information is by wrapping a story around it to keep it entertaining and engaging.

Jack Hart calls this bookend narrative.

Let’s say you’re writing an article about “how to remove a jelly stain from a white shirt”. Well the step-by-step of how to do that is pretty boring.

And, as a marketer, the last thing you want is to be boring. So, instead, you could open the article with a story about how you love to get a donut on the way to work every morning.

And you’re not very good at eating and driving so you have a closet full of ruined shirts. But then you discovered a way to remove jelly stains!

Now you can go into the step-by-step explanatory stuff. And finish by circling back to the story you started the article with and wrap it up.

You bookend the boring, “heavy” information with lighter, more entertaining narrative.

This is a simple and effective way of blending information and entertainment.

And it’s a great way to write articles that people enjoy reading.

Storycraft will help you tell better stories

As marketers we need to be able to tell compelling stories.

It’s how we get people to consume our marketing message.

Storycraft will help you craft stories (marketing) that people actually want to read.

It’s a book that I’ll keep referring back to for help with my writing.