October 5, 2018

Storytelling Tips from Kurt Vonnegut

by Alex D'Amore

Although there is no single, objective standard for the elements of a great story, the prolific American writer, Kurt Vonnegut, liked to say that you must “be a sadist” to your characters. “Make awful things happen to them,” he said, “in order that the reader may see what they are made of.”

What he was really driving at is the need for an essential element of conflict in every story (providing a mechanism for the hero to arise, victorious). Yet conflict appears to be a missing or underutilized device in most B2B stories. Perhaps because it’s been ingrained that brands are supposed to focus on solutions instead of problems. But that’s not a story, that’s a presentation.

Giving voice to essential conflict is often what resonates most with your audience. After all, we all have problems but nobody knows anything about your solutions.

So, be cruel to be kind. Give conflict its rightful place in your brand stories. We all root for the hero but without a metaphorical beast to slay, the outcome can leave one wanting.

If you want to learn more about one of the master storytellers and his tips for telling a great story, check out “Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Great Story,” and enjoy this quote from the maestro himself:

““I’m not a drug salesman. I’m a writer.”
“What makes you think a writer isn’t a drug salesman?”