Profit From Storytelling by Taking Your Reader on an Emotional Journey

Here’s something few people know about me: I’ve eaten roadkill.

Mindy McHorse

It happed on a warm September evening. I’d dozed off while traveling on a tour bus somewhere near Lightning Ridge, Australia, where opals are plentiful and kangaroos even more so.

First came the crash, then the giant swerve as our tour bus whirled around to park on the side of the lonely road.

The sudden stop could mean only one thing: We’d hit a kangaroo. I watched as Ted, our rough-and-tumble tour guide, jumped from the bus and ran to the dead animal. He pulled her over to the shoulder of the road, then checked her pouch for a joey. There wasn’t one.

Ted sighed in relief and glanced back at the bus. A slow grin bloomed across his face. Then he crouched down, pulled a massive knife from his boot, and in a single fluid motion cut off part of the fallen animal’s upper leg. Ted’s right-hand man jumped out of the bus and ran toward him, ice chest in hand.

Let’s just say there was a little twist to our barbecue dinner that night. Bit of a tasty twist, too.

It’s a true story — and the telling of it landed me my first-ever paid writing assignment, which was for an Australian travel magazine. Whether it made you cringe or salivate, my hope is that reading that small story took you on a journey.

In fact, that’s why stories are so powerful. They make experiences relatable and emotional. As creative writing instructor Robert McKee once said, “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”

This week, I want to shed some light on why stories are such a powerful tool for persuasive writers. I’ll also share easy-to-implement tips on how to be a more engaging storyteller, along with how to profit from your story-writing.

My roadkill story above is an example of opening a message with a story lead. Copywriters often use this approach as a shortcut to the reader’s attention. In contrast, I could have opened with the alarming statistics of kangaroo collisions in Australia, or even the number of people who regularly eat kangaroo. And there’s certainly a place for informative writing like that.

But, informative writing gives you more of an intellectual experience. It doesn’t engage you like a story.

Plenty of research backs this up. When you present bullets of statistics or facts, it activates two areas of your brain: Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. Both are part of your language processing center in the cerebral cortex, where words get decoded into meaning. And, that’s about all that happens there.

In contrast, when you’re told a story, those two language-processing areas get activated along with many other parts of your brain — including the parts of your brain you’d use if you were actually experiencing the events of the story.

That’s why listening to a story can take you on an emotional adventure. It’s also why you’re more likely to remember stories than statistics, and it’s why storytelling can help you be more persuasive, move people to action, and progress in your writing career.

Here’s an exercise to help grease your own storytelling skills:

First, make a list of the three most mesmerizing stories you’ve ever read or heard.

Then write down why you found each enthralling. Did the story make you fall in love again? Did it terrify you? Did it transport you back to a carefree childhood?

When you’re ready, share your favorite story and the answers here.

Tomorrow I’ll be back with tips on how to better tap those emotional parts of the brain, so you can connect with any audience. This is key to profitable writing, because connection on an emotional level drives engagement and sales.

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Published: June 1, 2015

20 Responses to “Profit From Storytelling by Taking Your Reader on an Emotional Journey”

  1. Life is too short,,Make up a story..Give the gift of laughter to all you meet.

    Guest (Norma)

  2. Please comment on truthfulness and imagination when creating storieslodged

    Guest (N)

  3. You know as I read Mindy's story, I recalled many stories of my own that I had listened to many times as a child and an adult. My Dad was a relentless storyteller and sometimes I grew tired of hearing those same stories over & over, but now what I wouldn't give to hear those stories one more time and what about others who need to hear what it was like to grow up in the depression or grow up poor middle class like my sister and I did. My dad was 1 of 10 sibs & only 1 remains.How can I use this?


  4. My favorite book is Anne of Green Gables. It's pretty well known, but it takes me to a place in time where family and friends desire the best for each other. And they actively encourage and support the best you have to give. To a place where a dreamy young girl grows up to become a stylish and accomplished young lady with grace, ease and poise that's unexpected yet warmly loved and cherished...


  5. My son was kidnapped when he was just under two years old. This led to the most traumatic period of my life. I am sure the story is unparalleled and has brought tears to most people who heard it. How can I get this story to publishers?

    Guest (L A Wood)

  6. My 3 stories aren't in order of best to last, because I like them all, and differently. But The School, a short that seems normal, makes you feel bad for the kids, concerned for their behavior, then it's surreal; Walk Two Moons, I guess because I strongly feel more than one emotion and am shocked by the outcome each time; and Where the Red Fern Grows, because I love dogs and it captures the relationship between them and us. But then I also have to say The Call of the Wild for the same reason.

    Guest (Lala)

  7. I have been an avid reader all of my life. But I never wrote a single piece of fiction until a composition class in college. I decided to write a story of something that had happened to me, with a bit of embellishment. The instructor enjoyed it so much, that he encouraged me to pursue writing. I didn't really take him seriously until now. I have decided to take The Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, and do what I love!


  8. I don't have A favorite story! But I DO have a favorite type of story. I'm a fantasy reader. Why? Because it takes me to another place, some times it take me to another time. It's an escape from the every day!

    Guest (Carri Landry)

  9. Mindy, please tell me where one goes to write and submit 3 stories and our reactions to them.
    Thanks, Jackie S.

    Guest (Jackie S of NH)

  10. The famous War of The World radio broadcast. No, I wasn't alive during this event but I have heard of it and listened to it. It got me thinking. With all the hype, it got back then. What if someone in today's time made another one. With the way, people think today about zombies, end of the world and viruses... It just makes you cringe. Someone could turn it into a global pandemic seeing as we could reach the entire world in no time.

    Guest (Richard)

  11. A very ragged paperback of A Tale of Two Cities sits on my coffee table, always. When I want to be inspired I read a couple of chapters. It's a mystery to me how a classic author can revitalize my thoughts. The trail-blazing and penetrating words of Dickens mesmerizes my thought processes and once again I can breathe onto the paper or laptop keyboard. This to me is writing.

    Guest (Shelley Maiden)

  12. My favourite story to date is Shantaram. It is actually a 900 page book but the most eloquently written book I've ever read. The descriptions were so vivid; sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrible, but unforgettable!

    Guest (Christa)

  13. My favorite story is The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. The reasons why I enjoyed this set of books so much was because the hero, heroine and villains are believable; there is romance, adventure, and mystery; and each book ends in a satisfying way. Other stories I have enjoyed for similar reasons are: Atlas Shrugged and Mission Earth.

    Fletcher Todd

  14. The three stories for me are giving birth in a tent with the door full of 28 faces of our group. Mutant Message Down Under which was mesmerizing from the start. And Sidhartha. Each of these have deep clear interplay with nature in different ways. Each of them is uplifting and inspiring.

    Guest (Myla)

  15. A story that still sticks in my mind is one of my journeys into a large city park. I was born in the country and so the near city was a jungle of streets and roadways that was sure to boggle the mind. However, as I traveled into this jungle with a partner and came into this city park, there in the midst of this confusion was a young woman, dancing on small patch of green grass. She was totally engrossed in her own sense of self and enjoying her moment of dancing in the light.


  16. That power to use the words as building blocks in a conversational manner were clearly seen in the story "I eat a road kill" In fact the expertize Mchorse displayed puts her in a special category of people who are professionals.
    Her story reminded me of the many stories I have at heart which I have not told to any one yet,yet they would sound interest to particularly Africa,my continent and the rest of the world and earn me a few dollars as well.
    Thank you Mchorse,thank you a lot.One day,One time I will part of AWAI.I swear.

    Guest (KIGOZI)

  17. "The Kite Runner" has to be the story for me. The reality of the story pulled every emotion from my mind. The kind of story that I could not stop reading and that I wish would not end, even though I knew it was. Sadly.

    Guest (tom)

  18. The Outsiders - the strong family ties of the three brothers and their circle of friends.

    To Kill a Mockingbird - The vivid descriptions of life in an era of extreme injustice captured through the eyes of a young girl much like myself... the mystery of Boo Radley... and Atticus, who was so like my own father in integrity and character (and who was 44 when I was born).

    Redeeming Love - resonated with me and had many parallels to my own story.

    Laurie Piel

  19. So many stories, so little time!
    1. A Lord Peter Wimsey story in which he saves the victim from a cruel, vindictive man, by treating her thyroid disease. He travels in secret and disguised and there's danger...and true love in the end!

    2. The Robber Bridegroom, A Grimm's fairy tale in which a young woman is betrothed to a man who may murder her!

    3. The Clever Gretel, another Grimm's: a clever servant cooks a delicious dinner, eats it and convinces her master that the guest ate it!


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