Quora Question #14

Let’s jump right into it!

What are the elements of effective, exceptional (primarily non-fiction) storytelling?

I don’t do much non-fiction reading any more so I won’t have much to really say there with any sort of confidence that my answer would help you. The fact that you added you’re trying to do video format instead of print will give me some points to address.

  1. A great hook — You kind of touched base on this in your edit. When it comes to drawing people in, you have to do it right It should be something that only briefly introduces you to the story and takes you by hand to lead you on some kind of adventure. With a video format you really have to find a good way to introduce it. I don’t know what you’re planning as a topic, but you could do something like:
    • A gunshot or noise of fighting with something that is war/fighting related.
    • A intriguing quote of a person if its a biography.
    • A brief glimpse into a slightly unknown, but interesting part of a person’s life for a biography.
  2. A great voice — Since you’re using a video format, you need to find some kind of narrator that both draws you in and has a great sound to it. Why do you think Morgan Freeman does so many voice-overs? He has a compelling voice that just tugs at you to listen.
  3. Pay attention to the details — Make sure your sources are good and entertaining. In a video format, you’ll want to make sure that:
  • Your sources need to have good information, double check them. Make sure they don’t come back as bad information.
  • They need to — hopefully — have some kind of entertainment value. I understand that non-fiction focuses more on the idea of giving information, but if it’s too dry then you’ll scare a lot of people away.

A mix of information dumps and good story — This kind of relates to the point above. When you are give your information, make sure it’s not informational point after informational point. Show pictures, movies. Give some action if it’s a topic that warrants it (war, fighting, rioting, etc.). Everyone learns in different ways, so make sure you cover as many bases as you can.
Define the importance of the topic — If your audience doesn’t think the idea is important to you then why should it be important to your audience? Now, I don’t mean come in at the beginning of the piece and say, “My name is Whatever McHappy and I love this topic.” If you love it, then what you pick to share should show that passion.
Make it relatable — I think, especially for me, when I’m reading or watching non-fiction, I have a hard time relating to a topic. I’ve never fought in a war or been a part of one where my family or I have been in immediate danger so I tend to move away from war-based non-fiction. If someone were to add an element I enjoyed then I would possibly give it a chance.

Without going into more of the fiction elements, that’s what I can offer you.  Hope it helps.


So, what do y’all think of as the exceptional elements of good writing, whether it be fiction or non-fiction?

A Whisper In The Ear

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