Basically, this blogpost isn’t about blogging. Not necessarily. It’s about telling a story, delivering a message and getting attention. There is a method that can help you with that and that method is called ‘Story Lining’. With Story Lining you can deliver any message quickly and to-the-point.
Story Lining: Start with the end
Most of us have been taught that every text has an opening, a body and a conclusion (in that order). We are forced-fed that every story should have this structure. So that is exactly what we do. In e-mails, reports, stories and even in telephone conversations we use this structure. But is it effective? What do you do when you get presented with a text, that has been structured that way? Right! You scroll to the end to read the conclusion first.
Story Lining is also known as Bottom Line On Top (BLOT) or Pyramid Thinking. The principle of this method is that you start with the conclusions; the bottom line. An Elevator Pitch is similar to Story Lining.
You cannot play with me
The difference between the old way of structuring and Story Lining can best be seen with the following example:
- Old way: “Yesterday you came over to play. You broke my doll and you weren’t very kind to my little sister. That is why I don’t want you to come over to play with me anymore.”
- Story Lining: “I don’t want you to come over to play with me anymore. You broke my doll and you weren’t very kind to my little sister.“
Story Lining fits our way of thinking and reading
We people use the old way of writing, because it seems logical. But we also have an extremely short attention span. Because we get so much information, we have to sort what is interesting and what is not. That is why we often read online texts in a kind of an F-pattern. We read the first two lines completely, and then we scroll down to read the conclusions. If we’re not interested within 8 seconds, we click away.
With Story Lining your text fits this way of reading. You first give the reader the conclusion, without bothering him with all kinds of waste. If the conclusion is appealing, the reader will read on.
Story Lining works on the bases of question and answer. You have a dialogue with the audience, so to speak. Because the structure brings up questions, the reader get’s sucked into your story.
Het Story Lining principle in 5 easy steps
- First determine to what question your blogpost (or report, or conversation, or whatever) is the answer to. What is the problem of your audience? Who is your audience? How much do they know already about the subject? Who are you targeting? For this blogpost, I took the following question as a starting point: “Is there a method to writing good blog posts?“
- Next, determine what the ultimate answer is to that question. This answer is in factt the title of your blogpost or text. This title, or ultimate answer, should raise the following question with your audience: ‘Why?’
- Then you determine what arguments you have to answer this ‘why-question’. Those are the paragraphs to your article.
- Each paragraph kan again raise a ‘why-question’. This way your story gets a kind of a pyramid structure (hence Pyramid Principle, once described by Barbara Minto) with the conclusion, or bottom line, on top, and all arguments below.
- Repeat this until you are left with facts only.
For advanced Storyliners, there are different variants to structure your story, based on this principle. But the above is always the basic principle.
Convincing with Story Lining can be applied (almost) everywhere
Whether you write an email, a business report, give a presentation, or have a private conversation with your partner or kids; Story Lining is applicable in almost every situation. Almost.
Story Lining is perfectly well suited for texts that need to convince, or when you have to make a choice, or give an advice. What are you having for diner tonight? What education should you choose? Should you take an electronic car? Is this a suitable sex toy? Are all men bastards? Should you drink white wine or red? Should your boss invest in the Chinese market? Are you the best candidate for that position?
It is less suited for a fictional story. Still, you can use some parts of the principle if you are writing fiction. Read about it in this blogpost.