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Blogosphere Trends + Storytelling

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:

1.  Ground Zero Mosque

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.

4.  Afghanistan

Example: Bors BlogHaircuts 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.

5.  Facebook Places

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.

8.  Pakistan

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.

9.  Miss Universe

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.

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.

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Comments

  1. Jaky Astik says:

    Story telling is important because it gives your blog references and real content. You can’t get on preaching all the time. You’ve to tell them what’s actually important to you and your blog.

    Stories happen all around. The biggest of content and inspiration comes because we all have stories to tell. Marketers do that all the time. Bloggers are just another type of social marketers. The only difference is that they’re are socially available and abide the rules of social story.

  2. I literally tell stories – every Friday I write a new piece of short fiction.

    But I also tell “tales from life” – often related to customer service (or lack thereof).

  3. Steve says:

    Great stories and solid insight on what makes them interesting. The added insight of the “lessons” give some great inspiration for my personal blog. Thanks

  4. Story telling is an important factor, but I think it also depends on the niche of your blog. The personal motivation blogs and life advice blogs would be more suited to story telling than tech news blogs etc..

  5. I suspect my contribution would be more at home on amateur- rather than pro-blogger, but here’s my mix of personal-story-telling meets travel-guide on my recent holiday blog: http://lostnortheast.posterous.com/hexham

  6. Hi Kimberly,

    Thanks for recounting your story….happy that you’re with us!

    Powerful storytelling is all in the details. As you mentioned with the huffingtonpost article the specifics made the story compelling.

    Ryan Biddulph

  7. Faizan says:

    i blog about motorcycles so really confused as how to act a storyteller in there.
    if any one has suggestion please tell me because i really need with my blog.
    but very good information to work on. may be it gives me hint for my new projects!

  8. @Faizan

    Here are a few suggestions to writing a good story that will have a structure.
    1) Have a story that is personal about you. This way your readers can relate to who you are.
    2) Have a story that has some sensory details involved. What were you physically feeling, what were you visually seeing, did you hear some sounds. For example “While I was riding my motorcycle, a sudden BOOM came from it as I revved my engine and sped off towards the orange flaming clouds.”|
    3) Use emotions. What did it feel like? Excited, calm, stressed.
    4) What was your conflict you were overcoming? Or was there a lesson you learned? This will also create suspense in your story and wrap it up nicely.

    Hopefully that helps, but if need more detail, then feel free to contact me. I’d be happy to share some tips.

    I did write about the importance of storytelling to be fascinating in conversations.

    http://www.conversationarts.com/2010/five-way-to-be-fascinating-to-others/

  9. Janie Coffey says:

    Kimberly, I couldn’t agree with you more about the power of the story. Everyone has a story and everyone likes to tell their story. We found the value and power of the story so strong, we created our entire blog(s) around the story concept. We are real estate brokers, but found straight up real estate sites boring and short term regarding reader interaction (ie they only visit during the window when they actually are interested in real estate. By making our blog, http://www.TheCoralGablesStory.com, we focus on the story and history of the whole community, people, places. Past and present. Allow the voices and stories to shine through. I am so excited to see this trend get the coverage and attention it deserves!

  10. J.D. Meier says:

    We’re wired for stories.

    As babies, we even do “what if” scenario planning to play out possibilities and learn from our daily triumphs, whether it’s getting our ba-ba, or escaping from the crib.

    Storytelling is a great hook … it sets the stage for something to happen.

    I use stories as a way to drive my day, week, month, and year as a way to connect to how I spend my time. For example, rather than “call a customer”, I “win a raving fan.” Instead of drive my project, I “lead an epic adventure” or “direct a blockbuster.” It’s a way of connecting my values to my day job.

    I do know I need to integrate more stories on my blog — I’ve just been stuck on how to work them in a way that doesn’t bloat my insights or spread out the points I want to share over too much space.

    You say you used Regator to find the the weekly trend “storytelling.” Can you share how or where in Regator you did this? When I flipped to the trends in regator, I mostly saw a bunch of Glenn Beck.

    Thanks for any insight

  11. We relate to stories at a personal level, Kimberley.

    Stories make us laugh, they make us cry, they get us thinking – and bring out the emotions in us.

    It’s one of the best strategies to make our writing personal – and yet its also one of the rarely used.

    Typically bloggers (or even non-fiction writers) don’t tend to think of themselves as fiction writers. We all have stories within us. We don’t have to be a Stephen King to write about them – just let them come out, and blend them with our blogging to create a wonderful mix that uniquely ours.

  12. Faizan says:

    @Vincent
    that is surely a great piece of information for me!
    thanks a lot!
    having a look to your page!

  13. Kimberly – Thanks for sharing these great examples of a storytelling anecdote and how it can bring one’s blog post to life.

    I’m a big evangelist the power of storytelling to reinvent our world. You might enjoy a free digital download of my storytelling manifesto for change-makers – http://www.getstoried.com

    I’m also teaching a course on social media storytelling, and shared your post with the class as required reading, #mediajedi.

    Keep being your bad self! :-)

  14. Oh, I need to hear this. It’s hard for me to bother with “story” when I can cut to the chase. But I know that story is far more interesting and far more likely to stick.

    So occasionally I experiment with story. Here’s one post I did that way:

    http://lisanotes.blogspot.com/2010/08/living-assisted.html

    I’ll keep plugging away. Good tips, everyone!

  15. When I started my blog about being an expat American city boy living on a small olive farm in rural New Zealand, I did so with stories in mind.

    I’ve always loved the oral storytelling tradition, and I’ve taken the same ideas into my blog. It seems to be what’s made my blog win awards.

    One my most popular stories is this one, about our geriatric rooster: http://moonovermartinborough.com/2009/07/25/old-man-henry-and-the-chook-house-race-wars/

  16. i love telling stories but really stink at it.
    it seems that there is a fine line between
    too much detail and bare facts. i can
    never find the right balance.

    you certainly did, though! great story
    and illustration.

  17. Seo Guru says:

    Story telling on your blog post depends on the subject that you have. I mean, if your blog is about technology, you cannot have a story to tell but make it straightforward. Technology jargon is hard to understand for ordinary people. Anyway, for other subject, it is best to have some kind of story telling technique to keep your readers glued and keep reading.

  18. T.Lee says:

    When I noticed today’s Problogger post, I clicked over expecting to scan through. I was sure the whole thing would be over within a couple of minutes.

    But something strange happened. I became lured, tangled, trapped. I wanted to dive in and read many of the example stories and so I did.

    So here I am thirty minutes later, finally getting to my comment.

    I would have to agree that the story aspect has a certain draw, a captivating power that goes beyond recitation (is that a word?) of facts.

  19. @Robert

    “Story telling is an important factor, but I think it also depends on the niche of your blog. The personal motivation blogs and life advice blogs would be more suited to story telling than tech news blogs etc”

    I agree, but it’s been very surprising to me how little story-telling there is on personal development blogs. There are few stories told in the first person, as if it’s too egotistical to use one’s personal story to illustrate a point. This makes for a fair number of abstract Posts Without People.

  20. Mine is about my dad. It’s not recent but it’s a favorite. Here is his story:

    http://www.youwanttoberich.com/2009/10/17/how-many-times-have-you-said-someday-first-of-two-parts/

  21. Great post, it’s definitely WAY more interesting to read a post which is written with some emotion and storytelling! What’s the point in just telling the facts? That’s just boring …

    why not tell the facts in an interesting fun way! That’s what keeps readers entertained and coming back :-)

    Great detailed post, Thanks.

  22. Storytelling is an important factor, but I think it depends on where your blog. Blogs and blogging life advice would be most appropriate motivation for storytelling that new technology blogs.

  23. abrablog says:

    i agree. Storytelling way are more enjoyable and looks great.

  24. Frank says:

    Hi Kimberly,

    Each post that I write has some type of story that I use to try to covey a point. Mostly I am writing about some aspect of personal developement and I enjoy writing it in this format compared to a list of points. I am fairly new to blogging as well. Here is a link to one of my favorite posts.
    I Will Kill You

  25. My Principles Of Execution blog focuses on the philosophy needed to execute a personal or organization strategy. I have adopted this approach to use examples / stories of real people to illustrate each concepts. My readers can then relate more to the principle I am writing about and people exemplify each principle.

    Gerald

  26. I like writing stories, but since my blog is mostly visual, I’m afraid too many words will scare my readers. Here are a few recent “story” posts:

    http://stylefyles.tumblr.com/post/948117955/superstitions

    http://stylefyles.tumblr.com/post/772089233/super-shady

    They actually seem to get fairly good feedback!

  27. @Gareth Stories can work on any kind of blog but are, obviously, especially well suited for what you’re covering. I like the addition of photos. That white moth is crazy looking!

    @Faizan I see that you are covering things like races as well as doing bike reviews and such. You can uncover a lot of interesting stories by recounting dramatic moments from races, talking to racers about their early days of riding, and exploring the personal rivalries among racers. Even posts such as your July post about new helmet requirements could be a place to work in a story—find someone whose life was saved by a helmet and recount the incident. Hope those ideas get you started. Vincent (post below) also has some ideas for you. You can use storytelling no matter what your niche.

    @Vincent Ng Great points. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

    @Janie Coffey Thanks for sharing. I like the way you’ve incorporated video. And the prominent “tell your story” link is a great way to get others to share their stories.

    @J.D. Meier I choose some aspect of blogging to discuss every week here at ProBlogger and then give examples using posts about the week’s most popular stories. That list of the most blogged-about stories comes from Regator and is designed to keep you guys up to date on what the hot stories are, but the aspect of blogging (e.g., storytelling) that I focus on each week comes from my head.

    @Kapil Apshankar Very true

    @Michael Margolis Thanks for sharing getstoried.com. There’s so much fantastic, relevant info there. I’ll check back regularly and keep up with the podcast. Thanks also for sharing my post with your class.

    @Lisa notes… Thank you very much for passing along your post. Storytelling is probably most effective when it comes to a personal topic like this. You could’ve explained assisted living in a straightforward, detached way but it wouldn’t have held my attention, but you’re a gifted writer and this post moved me. Keep at it!

    @Moon over Martinborough What a fun read! I love the details (just enough, not too much), humor (“the poultry equivalent of a dirty old man” lol), and images. Thanks a million for sharing….Oh noooo! I just went to your homepage to read some of your other posts and saw that Old Man Henry has passed away recently. I went from smiling after reading the post you shared here to tearing up as I read about his final days. I’m so sorry to hear it but it sounds as though he had an amazing life. I lost a pet not long ago and can sympathize with how difficult it is. My condolences.

    @lea helmerich Thanks and don’t give up. You’ll find that balance with practice.

    @Issa Beautiful post. I can see why it’s a favorite.

    @Frank Thank you for sharing! The title was a little creepy but once I clicked through, I saw it wasn’t nearly as threatening as it seemed. ☺

    @Mary I like the way you built your post and story around the sunglasses photo. Thanks for the links!

  28. margaret says:

    I’ve never been able to write without storytelling! It’s how I survive hardships and keep finding laughter.

  29. Adrienne says:

    Hi Kimberly,

    It’s so ironic that I just came across this post after writing one last night about the importance of storytelling! I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve shared here. In fact, “share good stories” is one of my 9 principles to “Experience Life Fully”, which I discussed in my recent post: http://experiencelifefully.com/2010/09/07/share-good-stories/.

    I shared why humans love telling stories in the first place and why storytelling is so important in our lives.

    And by the way, what a crazy experience for you!!! I just went skydiving for the second time this past weekend and had a blast. I can’t even imagine how terrified I would be if I had been in your situation…I’m so glad it turned out okay! Do you think you’d ever go again??

  30. i support this completely. who doesn’t know that telling some thing in the form of a story makes it 10 times more interesting. then why should blogs be an exception.