4 Tips from Fiction Authors to Level Up Your Brand Story

Make Your Business Narrative a Bestseller

May 12, 2021
Your business is always telling a story. Improve yours by learning from masters of the craft.

When’s the last time you experienced a novel? It’s possible you haven’t touched one since resentfully trudging through The Great Gatsby in high school English. Maybe you joined a book club going through Reese Witherspoon’s picks, inherited your friend’s C.J. Box collection, or picked up one of those crinkly-spined stock thrillers from the shelf of your seaside Airbnb. Most likely, you spent some portion of quarantine bingeing a television show or movie saga adapted from a popular book series.

Novels are lengthy stories, full of characters and concepts that collide with fascinating consequences. They capture our imagination and propel us through new and dazzling worlds with carefully-chosen words, opening doors to other lives and changing us. 

Companies depend on lengthy stories, too. No business exists without a narrative to sell — something that its customers have to be intrigued by, comprehend, and ultimately believe in. It’s perfectly reasonable, then, to assume the following:

“If it’s true of a great novel, it’s true of a great business.”

That’s the premise we’re going to explore by unpacking these key quotes from four legendary storytellers. 

  1. Stephen King
    “Good books don’t give up their secrets all at once.” 
  • The most thrilling stories involve a complex situation and a slow-and-steady inevitable untangling, with twists and turns that surprise and delight (i.e., elicit pleasure in the reader, however horrible they might be in the context of the tale).

    A brand whose marketing and strategy communicate that same trajectory — a deep understanding and retelling of problems, followed by delightful solutions that reveal themselves more and more as customers dig in — will create followers as loyal and rabid as those who show up to conventions dressed like characters from King’s “IT.”

  1. Toni Morrison
    “I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.”
  • Never forget that your business is more than just a way to pay the bills — it’s a vehicle for creating a world you’re passionate about seeing. And your undeniable passion for the story you want to tell, if you preserve it and channel it effectively, will be the energy that keeps it running. 

Like Morrison’s novel, the core of your company’s greatest idea should be a compelling story you want to see in the world. Businesses empower you to mobilize other humans and weave them into that narrative you’ve dreamt about.

  1. Ernest Hemingway
    “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
  • Hemingway’s advice can be interpreted like this: the highest-impact words, the ones that actually generate creative momentum and motivate progress, typically reveal themselves as intentionally short phrases packed with truth.

    What follows is often an unlocking of supporting ideas, story arcs, and chapters, none of which would flow without the difficult work of honing in on that initial “true sentence.” No meandering copy or string of buzzwords will have the desired effect of inspiring you — or your customers, for that matter — to action. 

Whether or not you’re experiencing creative block, always be looking for a single, short message that’s soaked in integrity and resonates with your business’s core values. 

  1. Shirley Jackson 
    “You will actually find that if you keep your story tight, with no swerving from the proper path, it will curl up quite naturally at the end, provided you stop when you have finished what you have to say.”
  • Horror writer Jackson was a master of razor-sharp storytelling, oozing with rich details that conspired to create the unsettlingly vivid worlds of her fiction. Here, she describes the vital discipline of focus in creating something that feels like it works.

    Hemingway talked about how to start. Jackson reminds us it’s just as important to know how to stop. 

Think of your story as a road for the customer to follow. You want to keep it paved, clearly lit, and as direct as possible. It can be easy to point out a million things about your company, but unless you provide guideposts to the few most important things, you end up diluting your message, creating confusion and disinterest, and ultimately losing your audience. 

Between their ability to make us marvel at the technical possibilities of language, and their enormous capacity for generating empathy, it’s no wonder that novels form the basis of educational curricula and blockbuster movies. 

Your company has a similar storytelling power. By studying the techniques of writers who know how to keep themselves inspired and focused — and their readers hooked — you can build stronger narratives into your business that truly make a difference in the direction of your dreams.  

At Only Co., we help businesses find the laser-focused messaging that highlights their truth and tells a bestselling story. Get in touch today to learn how we can do the same for you. 

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