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The Role of Storytelling in Tech Comm and Business Content (poll) | TechWhirl

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imageThe Role of Storytelling in Tech Comm and Business Content (poll) | TechWhirl

Vote in the latest TechWhirl poll, and comment on the post, on whether storytelling can play a role in producing great technical content.

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  • mbakeranalectambakeranalecta CanadaPosts: 53
    Humans thrive on stories, so in principle storytelling is a good idea and I would like to be able to use it more. But there are a few issues to consider.

    * Unlike fiction, where the reader is open to living a quest vicariously, the reader of tech comm is usually on a real quest, trying to accomplish a real goal or solve a real problem. Chances are they are not terribly interested in having real experience interrupted by vicarious experience. In the classic hero's journey narrative there is generally a wise man who provides the hero with key information he needs to complete his quest. Seen in this light, the tech comm author is more a participant in the user/hero's real life quest than the narrator of an imaginary quest.

    * Good storytelling is hard and bad storytelling is awful. Perhaps if tech writers were sufficiently gifted storytellers, they would be employed as novelists instead. I would hesitate to recommend storytelling in tech comm, therefore, knowing how hard it is to pull it off and how tedious it is to sit though if it is not done well. There is a lot to be said for doing the simpler thing well and consistently rather than doing the harder thing poorly and inconsistently.

    * To be effective, stories have to be read sequentially from beginning to end. People do not read tech comm content that way.

    * Unlike most other forms of communication, the aim of tech comm is not to draw people in, but to send people out as quickly as possible, equipped to accomplish their tasks. Storytelling techniques are very much about grabbing and holding the reader's attention, and that is not our task.

    In limited applications, therefore, and in the hand of the right writer, it might be good, even great. But I doubt it is a feasible approach for everyday tech comm.

    Are there individual elements of storytelling we might bring in to tech comm? That is a more difficult question. What are the elements of storytelling, and which ones might apply to what we do?
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