Dash of Fun

Stories from an Asian Perspective

Story Telling vs. Story Writing

I frequently hear marketers refer to themselves as story tellers.

As a marketer by trade, and someone who's worked at a major ad agency, been part of creative advertising campaigns, and also a fiction author, the meaning of "story telling" is something that carries a lot of weight. I don't love to see it thrown around casually.

Story telling in the way marketers describe it, is short, punchy and to the point. It's the:

  • 15 second or 30 second ad spot
  • 60 second elevator pitch
  • 50 character headline on a website

And it can usually be achieved by explaining a small story, that puts the listener into a mindset of imagination - it gets them to think creatively about what their life would be like if they had this product, for example: "you're a busy mom. you don't have time to take out your cat's litter. that's why catlitter.com will do the messy work for you." The core of it is that there's a pain point - whether that's time, identity, money - that the product will help you solve. It's also a way to differentiate your product: so that whenever a buyer is making a choice from a metaphorical retail shelf, they are putting you into one category "good design", or "works really fast" or whatever, so that whenever the buyer goes to buy something, you'll be top of mind.

Story writing is a completely different craft. Most commercially appealing novels are:

  • About 290 pages, or 60-65k words
  • Create a world for a reader that gives them new insight into the reader's own self and others
  • Hook the reader upfront, keep them reading and resolve the book in a satisfying way

I've written a personal review for every book I've finished over a 10-year period. Everything from fiction novels, to romance, mystery, to history, to current affairs, business books, parenting books. Anything. The only thing that I found over the years that distinguished a book that was a "time pass" that I quickly forgot about, and a "this will stay with me a while" book was: world creation. The non-fiction writers who sucked you into a new way of thinking, or the fiction writers that created an entirely new world.. those are the ones to stay with.

So are there any commonalities between story telling and story writing? Empathy. Empathy for another's pain point is at the core of "story telling" as defined by marketing. Empathy to be able to create believable characters and dialog that inhabit another world is the core of "story writing".

Post written by Priya Doty

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