This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts) – Darren
I went tandem skydiving for my birthday in June. As the small plane packed with adrenaline junkies climbed, my blood pressure did the same. The air felt thin in my lungs. The fields below grew smaller and smaller, turning into a patchwork quilt of greens and yellows. At 14,000 feet, my instructor and I shimmied to the doorway and shoved off into the nothingness. During the thirty seconds of freefall, the noise and power of the wind were overwhelming. The ground flew up at us. As my instructor pulled the parachute, we jerked upward for a moment before I heard him say the last thing you want to hear from your tandem skydiving partner: “Oh no. Oh no. Oh no!” Our chute had tangled and we were falling past those who had jumped before us. He shouted for me to “kick to the right like your life depends on it!” I did. A few seconds later, he yelled, “Look up!” I did. The chute flapped uselessly above us, a crumpled yellow napkin on a background of blue. “Keep going!” he ordered. I did. Eventually—what must have only have been 60 seconds or less but felt like far longer—our kicking and spinning paid off. The chute’s lines spun us quickly in one direction and I felt the wind catch us, slowing us to a lazy pace as we drifted to the ground.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because today, we’re going to use the weekly blogosphere trends from Regator to talk about the importance of storytelling in blogging. I could have reported the facts: When I went skydiving, our parachute got tangled, but we were able to straighten it out and land safely. And that’s the route that many bloggers take, but the straight facts aren’t always your best bet. Telling a story in a more narrative form adds emotional impact, suspense, interest, and imagery. People communicate in stories every day and, used sparingly and appropriately, they can add a lot to your blog. Let’s see how some bloggers used storytelling to enhance posts about this week’s top stories:
Example: Huffington Post’s “My Whole Street Is a Mosque”
Lesson: Good stories have enough details to help readers form a visual. Mira Schor’s description of the streets of New York uses specifics such as the type of fake fashion accessories being sold on the street, the sort of people passing through the neighborhood, and the kind of prayer mats being used to paint a clear picture.
2. Ken Mehlman
Example: The Seminal’s “On the Luxury of ‘Coming Out’ When You Feel Like It”
Lesson: Use your own personal experiences and stories to connect with readers on an emotional level but be sure your story ties in with your post’s goal, as this one does. The fear and anger conveyed in this post are used to effectively contrast the writer’s coming out experience with Ken Mehlman’s.
3. Tiger Woods
Example: Devil Ball Golf’s “The complete Tiger Woods timeline, from Escalade to divorce”
Lesson: Stories are essentially a sequence of actions that create a plot. This post presents those actions in the form of a timeline but a narrative still forms—complete with conflicts, resolutions, and dramatic plot. Remember, something should happen in your story.
Example: Bors Blog “Haircuts in Herat”
Lesson: Make your story captivating and interesting…in other words, not something that your readers experience in their everyday lives. This story is dramatic, engaging, and puts readers into a situation they are unlikely to experience on their own.
Example: Ad Age’s “How to Almost Sabotage a Dinner Party With Facebook ‘Places’”
Lesson: Depending on the purpose of your story, it may or may not be necessary to give a great deal of detail about the characters. Keep your focus on what’s relevant. In this post, it’s important to know that the friends involved are “20-somethings, a bunch of typical iPhone-toting over-sharers” because it directly relates to their reactions and helps make the author’s point. In my skydiving story above, it wasn’t necessary to go into detail about the instructor in order to make my point.
6. Home Sales
Example: Jalopnik’s “I Sold Everything To Buy A Lamborghini And Drive Across The Country”
Lesson: Use quotes and images where appropriate to add detail to a story. This post’s well-placed quotes and carefully chosen photos work with the text to create a fascinating story.
7. Emmy Awards
Example: TV Squad’s “Oops! Most Embarrassing Emmys Moments”
Lesson: Stories don’t have to be long. These anecdotes from the Emmys tell the tales in just one brief paragraph each, yet each has characters, conflict, and resolution—condensed yet appropriate in this application.
Example: Journeys to Democracy’s “Personal Note: Flood Relief in Remote Kohistan”
Lesson: The best stories have their fair share of suspense. Readers feel anxious to know the outcome and, therefore, won’t stop reading until the end. This post’s account of a “grueling 20-hour journey” uses tension well.
Example: PopWatch’s Miss Universe: Help me convince myself to watch
Lesson: Stories can be used to establish camaraderie with readers rather than to create tension and suspense. The introductory paragraph of this post isn’t particularly dramatic but does establish common ground with any other readers who were snarky with girlfriends in junior high or who grew up watching pageants. It also allows the blogger to share a bit of her personality.
10: The Walking Dead
Example: Warming Glow’s “Oh My God, ‘The Walking Dead’ Trailer Is Amazing”
Lesson: Move beyond text to visually tell a story. Videos are, obviously, a great medium for storytelling and while this blog didn’t create the video included here, it is very appropriate for the readership and one heck of a good story.
Your turn! Have you recently used a story on your blog? Please share a link and any tips you may have in the comments. If not, give it a try this week and report back.