This post originally appeared as one of Tyler McCune’s newsletters. Reprinted with permission.
While you’re here, enjoy this podcast interview with Tyler on writing better newsletters.
By Tyler McCune
Do you like stories? I bet you do.
Stories are addicting. And there is good reason why.
Narratives engage us
Human’s are hardwired to think in stories. So when you tell stories, you make it extremely easy for people to understand what you are saying.Tyler McCune
On the other hand, humans are not hardwired to think in abstractions. It’s why little kids will beg their parents to read and reread them stories each night, but won’t ask them to explain the inner workings of quantum physics.
It’s why your ears perk up when your friend starts gossiping, but your eyes glaze over when they want to debate whether or not Utilitarianism is a sound philosophy.
Most readers find abstractions boring
One reason abstractions bore while stories are adored is that there is no drama in abstractions. There are no images that you can sink your teeth into.
That is why skilled teachers (and skilled copywriters) will turn abstractions into stories and images. Because otherwise, it is far too much mental work for your student or prospect to read.
To make myself the shining example, here are the story-laced images I’ve sprinkled throughout this email:
“Hardwired” — to explain the abstract concept of an innate quality of the human mind
“Little kids begging for stories” — to explain the abstract concept of craving something
“Ears perk up” and “Eyes glaze over” — to explain being interested vs being disinterested
“Sink your teeth into” — to explain a tangible image vs an abstract concept
Turning the abstract into a story
To drive this point home, let me circle back to the example of Utilitarianism. If you are at all familiar with the philosophy, one of the most common ways it is taught is the “trolley car thought experiment”.
Which is, yes, a story-based thought experiment with lots of drama built-in. Specifically, drama that comes from you being forced to choose whether to let the trolley kill five people it is on track to hit, or change tracks and only kill one.
Look it up if your not familiar. ‘Tis fascinating.
One more thing before I go:
The best way to tell great stories, is to live great stories.
So make today a story worth telling.
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