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Tip 11: Tell a story

Bikram Choudhury (love him or loathe him) is the world’s most infamous yoga instructor who built a wildly successful business based on just 26 yoga postures. So what can Bikram yoga teach us about writing a book?

When you rock up to a Bikram class (or any other type of yoga), you’re looking to learn something new, connect with yourself and others, feel stimulated and challenged, and enjoy the time you’re there.

So my guess is you’d struggle if the class were absent of engaging characters and conversation, or worse, the teacher only spoke to you in facts and stats.

Sounds pretty boring, right?

  Every class and every book (even non-fiction business books) need a strong narrative –   part information, part story – to keep your audience interested.  

This doesn’t mean you have to write like you’re in the running for an Oscar or the Man Booker Prize, but you do need to steal your audience’s valuable attention long enough to make them want to read on.

In other words, you need to learn to talk less at people about WHAT you know and communicate with them on WHY it’s important they know this now and HOW this will help change their life.

Show them, don’t tell them, why they should care.

That is what makes a great story, whether it’s in a Bikram class or the next best-selling book.

A great story involves intrigue, suspense, humour and emotion. It has like-them-or-loathe-them characters (Bikram Choudhury anyone?).

A great story is carefully structured with the right information in the right place.

THINK: How much do I reveal and when?

You need to draw your reader in, set a scene they can relate to, provoke an emotion and spur them into action.

In her upcoming book Stories For Work: The Essential Guide to Business Storytelling, Gabrielle Dolan uses Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman’s research to explain, why telling a story makes scientific sense:

Stories provoke our emotions. They make us feel something – excitement, anger, sadness, empathy or apathy. Consequently, we feel something towards the person telling the story, which helps create connection – the bond (like mother–child) that the neocortex part of our brain develops.

Like a yoga class, your book is an end-to-end story – a manifesto with a clear beginning, middle and end.

Bestselling author Steven Pressfield refers to this as the ‘Three Acts’:

1.    hook – beginning

2.    build – middle

3.    payoff – end

Hook your reader in. Build to a climax. End with how to achieve the benefits.

This is a simple, but effective strategy you should base not just your whole book on, but each and every chapter too.

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Kelly Irving

I’m an editor and writing coach with a love for deep-diving into brains and businesses. Through my one-to-one work and online program, I provide an action-by-action process that speeds up the time it takes to produce your best book, and turns overwhelm and self-doubt into momentum and excitement for writing.


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