As an editor, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about story and its importance in writing. It’s a shame that the concept of “story” often gets relegated to a fiction-only space. Telling a story—delivering a narrative—is just as important in creative nonfiction, academic writing, marketing writing, business writing, and any other kind of technical writing, as it is in fiction.
What is “story,” then? The first thing that comes to mind for most people is exactly what dictionary.com describes in its first definition of the word: “accounts of imaginary people or events told for entertainment.” This, unsurprisingly, focuses strictly on story as fiction. I found the second definition far more helpful in unveiling what good storytelling does in writing: “an account in the evolution of something.”
It’s the word “evolution” that stands out to me.
Stories evolve. A good story starts at one, simple point and develops gradually into something more complex, bringing the reader along for the ride. This does not happen only in creative writing. An academic essay sets out to prove something to its reader; over the course of the piece, a thesis evolves through each successive proof, turning something simple into something more complex. Even a car’s manual tells a story–it lays out the basics of car maintenance and builds on those basics until the reader can understand more complex concepts.
Story is present. It is deliberate. And it needs to be cultivated. If that car manual doesn’t start by explaining simpler concepts, the reader is left confused and frustrated. If an academic paper doesn’t evolve a logical path to its conclusion, it won’t be taken seriously.
If you’re writing anything, you have a story to tell. Creating good story–good writing–takes practice, but it’s not something impossible to learn. I encourage you to start seeing story in the world around you, so that when you need to tell a story of your own, you will know what to look for.
Rachel Song is a professional editor with a bachelor’s degree in English and a Certificate in Copyediting from the University of California, San Diego. She has a passion for storytelling and has worked as a developmental editor, copyeditor, and proofreader for award winning fiction authors. Though she specializes in Fantasy, Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Women\’s Fiction, Literary Fiction, and Clean Romance, she is open to other genres as well. She has also worked as a copyeditor for multiple literary magazines, and as an editor on academic papers across a range of fields. She spent two years teaching English in China.
Since 2016, she has worked with high level companies to edit and maintain corporate website content. She has also worked on articles that have appeared on websites such as Stack Overflow and SelfLawyer. As a writer and blogger, her goal is to help others achieve excellence in writing, storytelling, and web presence.
She currently lives in metro Detroit with her husband. When she isn\’t editing, Rachel can be found reading, writing, cooking, gardening, and playing Animal Crossing.