How to Create Stories People Will Actually Read
Creating stories that hook your audience isn’t difficult—it just takes some planning and passion.
According to The Writing Cooperative, you only have 10-20 seconds to catch a reader’s attention. People have a tendency to scan stories for only the most relevant information, and bounce right off the page if they’re not hooked quickly. So, how do you create stories people will actually read?
While Vocal gives makes it easy to add photos, videos, music, and more to create engaging stories, there are additional tips you can follow to ensure your audience will actually want to read your work through to the end. Here are a few helpful tactics to help hook your reader quickly and effectively, and keep them engaged to the very last word.
Know your audience.
No matter what you’re creating, you need to have an understanding of who is going to be reading your story. If you’re creating for Motivation, Vocal’s community for inspirational stories, and you're writing in a negative tone, you may risk alienating your audience.
Additionally, understanding your ideal audience is important when considering the structure of your story. Are you trying to appeal to fellow fans that would better appreciate a helpful list, or are you trying to make your audience feel emotion through a touching narrative? The best way to understand your audience is by creating stories for people who naturally gravitate to the things you’re passionate about.
Consider your tone.
Regardless of who your audience is, you’ll want to capture their attention by using a relatable tone of voice. If you’re writing academically in a story meant to be fun and relatable, your readers’ eyes will glaze over the content. If you’re too conversational when trying to assert yourself as an authority in a subject, readers may not take you seriously.
Ideally, the tone of your stories should be personable and engaging, while still sounding like you’re an authority on the topic at hand. Don’t be afraid to crack a joke or add a funny GIF when appropriate, or share something a bit more personal if it’s relevant to the subject matter. You’ll make the reader feel like they’re learning from you without making them feel as though they’re being talked down to.
Be an expert.
There are two important steps when creating enjoyable stories: picking the right topic and presenting that topic well. You should pick a subject you are truly knowledgeable about, or you’ll have a hard time turning it into something understandable and relevant. There are a whole bunch of thorough, knowledgeable authorities in every subject, so there will always be someone else that people can turn to for stories and advice.
The best way to engage your audience is to really know what you’re talking about and earn their trust. Know your topic inside and out, and then find an interesting way to simplify it for your readers to understand and relate to.
Captivate your audience.
Pull the reader in with your first sentence. If your stories aren’t engaging readers within the introductory paragraph, readers will quickly move on. In fact, 55 percent of readers spend less than 15 seconds actively viewing a webpage; this means that readers are going to depend on those first few sentences to capture their interest—and we have some different techniques to try out that can help you do just that.
Perhaps the best strategy for pulling in your audience is to use the storytelling technique. Appeal to the emotional side of your reader and find a way to connect with them on a personal level. All creators should be storytelling because it helps you as the creator pull your audience in. Jump right into the story with a description or relatable thought process rather than an introduction that explains what the story will be about. Start right in the middle of the action—this is what makes the reader want to see what happens next. These are a couple Vocal stories that make great use of the storytelling technique:
Another technique that can be used to pull the reader in is the result technique. This technique works by sharing a personal story of success or failure, which came as a result of a certain lifestyle choice, activity, or hardship. The result technique can be incorporated with the storytelling technique if you want to teach the reader an important lesson, while also presenting the idea in narrative style. Here are some examples of Vocal stories that used the results technique effectively:
Keep things digestible.
Readers’ short attention spans mean that you need to keep each thought within your story organized and succinct. Keeping things short on a long-form platform such as Vocal means breaking up your story with images, videos, music, podcasts and other media embedded between your written content. Breaking up large blocks of text with media helps keep the reader engaged by providing an entertaining experience.
Tell your story with purpose.
Your audience can sense whether or not you care about the topic of your story—and if you have no passion in creating it, then they have no purpose for reading it.
Tell a story that matters to you. Make sure your message is clear and that your story is providing something of value to the reader. Your story should teach your reader something and leave them feeling wiser, or it should emotionally move them in a way that makes them feel changed once they’ve read it. If you can’t define the story’s purpose, then go back to the drawing board before you sit down to create it. Writing with purpose will make creating your story just as enjoyable to you as reading your story is for your audience.
Creating stories people will actually read isn’t rocket science. If you really take the time to know your topic, know your readers, and understand how your audience interacts with your stories, you’re on your way to engaged, enthusiastic readership.