When we see the word “story”, we think fiction. That’s good. Studies show that reading novels will increase our empathy for others. So stories and fiction are not a waste of time. Anyone tells you different? Ignore them. You’re welcome.

One way to write non-fiction is to write it as fiction. This isn’t news to writers, but many people lately are using the phrase “story-telling” like Papa’s got a brand-new bag. Papa does not have a brand-new bag. It’s the same bag and a darn good one.

Does this mean we all have to start our personality profile or white paper or case study with “It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out. A maid screamed and a door slammed”? If it gets you through your first draft, then by all means yes! In the meantime, here are some other ideas.

One: Your protagonist is being chased by bears. Get him up a tree to relative safety, and then throw rocks at him once he’s up there. Get him back down the tree and back home without being eaten by bears.

Two: Use a story generator. This one is based on the work of Soviet folklorist Vladimir Propp. Propp identified 31 narratives units of Russian folktales. You can check a familiar story on the right-hand side of the linked page, such as Hansel & Gretel, click “generate” below the box in the middle of the page and behold! a Hansel & Gretel unlike any other (Wayback Machine, I love you).

Three: Draw a line that goes like this:


Now put some words on the line that correspond to the line’s direction as read left to right.

Four: Describe a problem. Describe the solution. Or a solution. Or some that don’t work and then one that does.

Five: Here’s a silly plot generator for when you are having trouble writing anything.

Six: Write about a person who does something and experiences a change. Do not write about a person thinking. A person thinking is not a story unless it’s a very creepy person like the character Cecy in Ray Bradbury’s short story The Homecoming.

You don’t want Cecy. Trust me. Write a different story.


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