Three Storytelling Techniques for Standout Content

I’m sure you’ve been told a million times that content is king, that it boosts your visibility, that it helps you stand out. The trouble is, the Internet is saturated with content, and this creates a headache for entrepreneurs like you who are looking to spread the word about their business with brilliant marketing content. How are you to stand out if everyone else is writing content too?

The good news is, there is a way you can stand out if you’re willing to be a little bit creative. Marketing gurus talk about telling the story of your business. So, who better to turn to for inspiration but master storytellers – bestselling authors. I’m going to share with you some storytelling techniques that bestselling authors use. These storytelling techniques are simple to use and they’ve worked since the beginning of time. We’ll start with…

Character Creation

All authors base their stories on a central character, what they do and how they feel. And they know these characters inside out. In a business context, you can treat your customer as a character, and get to know them the way authors do – with a character sketch, which is a profile of a character. You take a typical customer from your demographic group, and do a character profile of them, exploring their interests, what media they consume and what problems they’d need solve.

This is a picture of an old man with a long, wrinkled face and a forked beard. He has a thin, knobbly neck poking out of his shirt collar.

You can also do a character sketch for yourself. Take the time to explore why you do what you do, what you want to achieve for your customers and how you achieve that goal. You can then use that knowledge, of yourself and your customers, to create content that appeals to them, that shows you understand them and can make their lives better with your products and services.

Next up, we have…

Plotting Techniques

For a story to be a story, something has to happen. That central event in a story is a plot. An author will create a plot that’s full of tension, leaving you wondering what’s happening next. But as a business owner, you’re more about resolving conflict than creating it. So, you create a problem-solving plot. And you do this using a plot structure that has existed since stories began and still works brilliant. That is the three-act structure, a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.

For the beginning, you lay out the problem; you set the scene. You ask the customer if they have an issue that needs to be solved. For example, I might ask: are you struggling to figure out what to say? Then you move to the middle of the story and talk about the process you use to solve the customer’s problem, the system you put in place. You finish up the story by explaining how you ultimately solved the problem for your customer and how you made your customer feel. Following this plotline when describing your products will build trust among your customers that you understand them and can resolve any difficulties they have.

Finally, we come to …

Setting and the Senses

These techniques are linked to each other and both aim to bring readers into the world of a story. They also help authors create vivid descriptions. Setting is about the time and place where a story happens, and with the senses, you describe what you experience using all five of your senses, not just sight. How you will use this technique will depend on what type of business you own.

If you have a physical product or a beautiful venue, you’re in luck. You can describe your place of business or the wonderful products you create. Talk about the aromatic scents released by your products, the delicious rich tastes, the views on offer, and even the harmonious sounds you may hear when you visit a venue or use certain products. But if you have a service, you can still draw on the senses to describe what you offer. You can think of an object that symbolises your business and use it as a metaphor for what you offer. For example, a coach may use a candle as a symbol and talk about guiding people from darkness into light.

I’ll be blogging lots more about these techniques and how to apply them to your marketing content. And I can also teach you how to use these techniques with my new content training course. You can find out more about it here. Or give me a call on 0876959799.

Pandemic Prose: The Closing

Here’s the second of my ten pandemic prose poems. It also featured in the lineup of the Modwordsfest spoken word festival on 11-12 July – thanks to Anna Jordan for that. I don’t think any of us will ever forget where we were when we heard that we were locking down. It’ll be a ‘where were you’ conversation for years to come. I was in a school, and my piece aims to capture the strange joy of that moment.

If you have a spare two minutes, I’d love you to take a look. Many thanks.

Here’s a video of my latest piece of pandemic prose, The Closing.

Words Are All I Have: Some Pandemic Writing

I’ve written ten prose poems inspired, if you want to call it that, by the COVID crisis. I’ll be posting them up as videos over the next ten weeks and sharing them on this blog.

This first one, Words Are All I Have, was a response to how helpless I felt as the crisis began to unfold. It was published on the Pendemic website, and also featured as part of the Modwordsfest spoken word festival in Waterford on 11-12 July.

If you’d like to hear Words Are All I have, you’ll find it here.

How I Rewrite Content

By Derbhile Graham

Here’s an example of content I have rewritten to make it more concise and more interesting to read. It comes from a blog called How DO I Open My Jar/Tin of Caviar, from Caviar Star.

All the perishable caviar products sold by Caviar Star come in vacuum sealed containers. Whether it’s our screw-top vacuum jars or pop-down vacuum tins, our containers are sealed tight to ensure that the caviar remains fresh and uncontaminated for the duration of its trip to the customer.

Although using air-tight containers to minimize air exposure and other contaminants is important, these jars and tins can really cause a headache, or hand-ache, when trying to get them open.

Best methods for opening vacuum jars and tins: Rather than using your hands, reach into your pocket and pull out a coin, or track down a tool like a butter knife or church-key bottle opener. Applying a little pressure between the lip of the lid and the threading of the base will break the seal and pop open your caviar jar or caviar tin quite easily.

And here’s what I’d do.

At Caviar Star, we pride ourselves on keeping your caviar fresh no matter how far it travels. We vacuum seal all our caviar jars and tins to prevent the from being exposed to the air. There’s just one problem with these vacuum seals – you may find it hard to open your jar or tin of caviar.

So, what’s the best way to get your delicious caviar open?

Just reach into your pocket and pull out a coin. If you don’t have a coin, try a butter knife or church key bottle opener. Slip your coin between the lip of the lid and the jar or tin itself. The pressure of the coin will break the seal and you can open and enjoy your caviar right away.

Article About Macular Pigment Study

By Derbhile Graham

This article originally appeared in The Irish Medical Times

A study conducted by researchers at Waterford Institute of Technology has found that using filtering lenses in cataract surgery reduces the risk of Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

The researchers at the Macular Pigment Research Group (MPRG) found that implanting lenses which filter out blue light increases the level of protective macular pigment in the eye.

The MPRG’s findings were featured in the October issue of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, a journal which is recognised as having the highest impact in the field.

During the trial, 42 patients who were due to undergo cataract surgery were implanted with either blue-light filtering or standard intra-ocular lenses (IOL). The density of macular pigment and the concentration of carotenoids were measured before surgery and several times during the following year.

The MPRG has already conducted a number of studies establishing the role of diet in preventing AMD. The recently published CARMA studies show that supplemental lutein and xeazanthin preserves vision in AMD patients.

However, this study has pinpointed the role harmful blue light plays in retinal degeneration and shown that filtering out blue light increases macular pigment levels. Mr Stephen Beatty, consultant ophthalmologist and researcher with the MPRG, believes that the findings of this study add an extra dimension to the group’s work.          

“It’s unique in that it’s the first time we have been able to demonstrate that this important and protective pigment can be augmented by non-dietary means” says Beatty.

“It tells us a lot about the mechanism of AMD because the blue-filtering lenses resulted in this protective pigment increasing in the eye, therefore implying that it is indeed the blue wavelength of visible light that do cause the retinal damage which results in AMD.”

The study shows that using blue-light filtering lenses will bring immediate and long-lasting benefits to patients undergoing cataract surgery, which will have a bearing on how these procedures are conducted. “Surgeons will be more likely to implant blue-light filtering IOLs if they know it results in greater protection against AMD down the road,” says Mr Beatty.

Article About How Dentists Treat Children With Special Needs

By Derbhile Graham

This article appeared in a 2008 edition of The Irish Examiner Feelgood SupplementBy, a health and lifestyle supplement.

People with special needs face greater dental health problems than the rest of the population and public-sector dentists are forced to deliver a high-quality service with limited resources.

“There is a large amount of unmet need,” said Prof June Nunn, Professor of Special Care Dentistry at Trinity College Dental School. “Access to special services like general anaesthetic (GA), which people with severe impairments particularly need, is limited. Patients are often waiting weeks even for emergency access.”

Dublin only has one GA list for the country’s largest centre of population, but other services can be accessed whenever patients need it. “We have a comprehensive service in place,” says Berna Treacy, Senior Clinical Dental Surgeon for children with special needs in the HSE South Lee Region in Cork. “If someone rings up in pain, they can see a special needs dentist that day.”

The Department of Health has funded training in sedation techniques at Dublin Dental Hospital and Prof Nunn believes training for all public-sector dentists is the key to ensuring a high standard of service for patients with special needs. “We must ensure that the whole dental team are appropriately trained so that there is good access for all patients.”

Meanwhile, dentists on the ground have evolved their own techniques for dealing with special-needs patients. “We use a show-tell-do method, tell them what we’re going, show them what we’re going to do and then do it,” says Berna Treacy. “We introduce them slowly to it and they gradually get used to it.”

Marion Phelan’s 11 year old son David is autistic and uses the HSE’s special-needs dental service in Waterford.

“There’s no way you could give David treatment. He finds the noise level difficult. But we find the dentist very accommodating. She takes her time with him and takes him through everything step-by-step. He doesn’t have to keep his mouth open all the time; she gives him a break. Recently, he allowed her to use the air gun on his cheek.”

“He understands that if he’s calm and keeps his mouth open, he can go to the toy shop afterwards. They play games of dentist at school and the techniques he learns at school follow on in the surgery.”

This week, I are … preparing a young writer for the Leaving Cert

Last week, I received an unexpected message. It was from a parent, asking me if I was offering creative writing classes for a student doing the Leaving Cert (final secondary school exam in Ireland). I hadn’t ever promoted myself as a resource for exam students. I imagined they would be too busy ingesting vast tracts of information for their exams to indulge in such fripperies as creative writing.

However, this parent was willing to consider one on one classes, so I decided to follow up on the query, in case I might be of use. I wanted to be sure the parent understood that I was not a qualified English teacher, but I am a creative writing tutor, so I could help them sharpen their creative writing skills and give them the confidence to tackle the Leaving Cert English essay.

The parent felt that this would be useful and I agreed to give the girl six one-hour sessions. And the parent network being what it is, I soon got another booking to deliver the same service to a boy. In each session, the students will learn a different language or storytelling skill, and these will act as a toolkit that will help them tackle the essay, which they won’t have seen prior to the exam.

The Elements of Story

My sessions will focus on three core skills. I’ll work on language usage, to encourage them away from clichés and to use either fewer or more words, depending on their writing style. We’ll also work on different storytelling techniques, such as character development, plotting, setting and viewpoint.

This will help them structure their ideas. Finally, I’ll help them generate ideas by showing them how to tap into their sentences. This will help them unlock memories that they can turn into stories. Having looked at the essay titles from the 2018 English exam, I’m confident that my approach will help them build up a bank of ideas that they can draw on when they’re in the exam hall. Rather than learn off an essay and hope it comes up, they’ll have the flexibility to adapt their ideas to the essay titles that come up.

Overall, I’ll show them how to make the essay titles interesting and relevant for them, so that even if English isn’t their passion, they’ll find a way to make the English essay their own. At the very last, it’ll take the fear factor out of being confronted with a series of essay titles and a blank page.

I also offer one to one consultancy for adults who have ideas for writing projects but are not quite sure how to move them forward. You’ll find out more about them here.

Upcoming WriteWords Creative Writing Workshops

In a fit of organisational zeal last week, I organised a tonne of creative writing workshops that will see me through the summer. Good-quality, reasonably priced venues in my area are hard to come by, and I wanted to pounce on my favourite venue, the Coastguard Cultural Centre in Tramore, Co. Waterford, before the slots are all gone. So, I’ve set up three workshops for the coming months in the Coastguard.

The Coastguard Cultural Centre in Tramore, Co. Waterford, an ideal venue for creative writing workshops.

Here’s what you can expect from the WriteWords creative writing workshop stable in the coming months.

Easter Children’s Writing Camp

This camp will be happening over two afternoons in the second week of the Easter holidays, when parents are beginning to tear their hair out wondering what to do with their offspring. My camps are all for children aged 8-12, the perfect age to start writing, before inhibitions kick in. They’ll have great fun travelling to lands of their own making, creating characters with magical powers and making up stories that could go absolutely anywhere. It’s happening at the Coastguard Cultural Centre on Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 April, from 1-4pm. The price of the camp is €40.

Memoir Writing Workshop for Adults

Following the success of my last memoir writing workshop for adults in Tramore, I’m doing another one on Sunday 12 May. Like the last workshop, it will be a chance for you to tell the story of your life. A lot of people find that they’re drowning in material from their lives and don’t know where to start. This workshop will give you a structure that will help you shape your ideas. We’ll also take a journey through the senses, to explore how the senses trigger memories and emotions. If this sounds interesting to you, it’s happening on Sunday 12 May from 10.30am to 3.30pm in the Coastguard in Tramore. The cost is €50.

Summer Children’s Writing Camp

In the long and hopefully hot month of August, I will be giving a children’s summer writing camp, and I’ll be going back to my usual format of a three-day camp. As well as learning the techniques of story, they’ll come away with their own completed story, which gives them a real feeling of accomplishment. The camp will happen on three mornings, on August 6, 7 and 8, again in the Coastguard. What can I say? It’s a venue that has everything. The cost of this camp will be €60, and it will run from 9.30am to 1pm each day.

If you’re living in the Waterford area and you’d like to book one of these workshops for yourself or your children, you can email or call 051 386 250. And if you’d like to find out more about the workshops WriteWords offers, check out our Writing Workshops page. B��