8 Rules for Telling Stories on Your Blog

By Daniel Scocco

This is a guest post by Jennifer Fulwiler.

For those of us who have diary-style blogs in which we offer readers a glimpse into our daily lives, there are times when we find that we have to write a long post in order to convey a story. However, it can be hard to find tips for creating long blog posts since a cardinal rule of writing for the web is to keep it short.

Web readers do occasionally read posts like this if they’re done well. I believe that the key to getting visitors to thoroughly read a long story is that it first must be scannable. When a reader comes across your blog and sees a long post she is going to take no more than a couple of seconds to ask herself, “Is it worth my time to read this?” Here’s how to show her that the answer is yes:

1. Start with a bang

Writing a story for the web is different than writing a story for print publication. Web readers have much shorter attention spans and will quickly move on if a post doesn’t immediately capture their attention. Before you go into any background details or set the stage for your story, begin with one or two bold, concise sentences that will grab readers’ attention.

2. Identify your take

Sometimes when we sit down to write stories or personal reflections we forget to pause for a moment and ask, “What’s my take?” In other words, why are you writing this? Take a moment to identify no more than two or three salient aspects of your story that you want to make sure readers understand, and structure your piece around those elements.

3. Highlight dialogue

Dialogue is a great way to break up your story and quickly convey the personalities of the people involved — even if the “dialogue” is simply something you thought to yourself. Include snippets of conversation whenever possible, and be sure to start a new paragraph whenever you switch speakers.

4. Include section headers

If your story is more than a few hundred words long and there’s no way to condense it, break it into mini “chapters” by including bolded titles for each main section of the story.

5. Use breakout sentences

“Breakout sentences” — single-sentence paragraphs — are a great way to make your story more scannable. Identify one or two turning points in your tale, and write an attention-getting sentence as its own paragraph to mark this point in the story. (For example: “When I saw the test results, I knew my life would never be the same again.”)

6. Vary paragraph size

A long story that consists of paragraphs of similar sizes looks monotonous. Don’t be afraid to have an occasional long paragraph if you need it to complete an idea, but try to follow it with a shorter paragraph or perhaps a breakout sentence (see #5).

7. Go for authenticity over perfection

Keep in mind that this is not a term paper and you’re not writing for your high school English teacher. Your readers are more likely to read an imperfect story that is exploding with sincerity and energy than a perfect story that dryly conforms to all the proper rules of grammar and sentence structure. Many of the most popular diary-style bloggers interject their tales of everyday life with things like all-caps exclamations and incomplete sentences, and their readers love it.

8. Cut, then cut some more

Re-read your story and edit ruthlessly. Think about your take that you identified in #2, and with every single sentence ask yourself: “Would it detract from the piece or weaken my point if I cut this?” If the answer is no, delete it.

As the rapidly increasing popularity of personal, slice-of-life blogs shows, there is a place in the blog world for longer posts that convey personal stories. By following these eight rules you’ll find that you have no trouble gaining a readership of people who are delighted to hear your tales.

Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer and web developer whose websites have been mentioned in Slate, USA Today and National Lampoon. Her current project is ConversionDiary.com



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13 Responses to “8 Rules for Telling Stories on Your Blog”

  • muso

    Very useful ideas which I have been using in a book called Amazing Women now published at Amazon. Will be an interesting test.

  • Dermot / Pet Insurance

    Thanks for a great post. Your numbered headings makes your article very scanable. Some great article writing tips here, Ta.

  • DIY

    I have started my first ever blog today. I wanted to go on for pages but i stopped after 2 paragraphs. I thought about my tiny attention span and figured that anything over 2/3 paragraphs and I get bored.

    Maybe its just me though. 🙂

  • James Mann

    I tend to edit my text after writing and instead of cut and then cut some more I end up adding more.

    I guess I need to take a few writing skill improvement courses.

  • Siddharth

    Good post Jennifer. Web reader are not same as the readers who buy a book and then read them comfortably, web readers want a quick eye catching post and if you are unable to make them stay on your site in first 10 seconds the they are already gone.

  • David

    This post has been featured in FullTiltBlogging.com’s Daily Blog Summary today. Great post!

  • The Masked Millionaire

    I write a lot about my life on my blog. If a story gets too long then I publish it in 2 or 3 posts.

    I did a story about how I quit smoking and had to break it down into 3 posts. It was/is my most successful posting ever.

    I hate it when people write too much. I normally don’t make it to the end of their post.

  • Kathy

    Excellent tips. My two biggest helps are to hit readers hard in the first sentence or two, and provide a lot of white space. The latter may involve splitting one idea into two paragraphs, even though in the print world it would make sense to keep it as one. I find if a story doesn’t look too difficult to get through, people will stay to the end. My third biggest help is to cut mercilessly. I tend to be long-wi

  • Ramoney

    This is where cutting up a long post to multiple posts can prove helpful. They aren’t too long and they leave the reader wanting more to make them come back.
    For the “pillar articles” these definitely apply.
    Thanks for the tips!

  • Emmitt Linn

    Thanks for the great post!

    Points 2 and 8 especially seemed spot on to me.

    Identifying your perspective or point of view seems to be the difference between just noodling around and actually having something to say, something to offer. Besides that, in looking at anything closely enough to know your opinion is where we find some depth, some insight, and even clues into what would inform other points of view.

    And cutting! I love cutting things out; stuff things as full as possible, and then remove all but the best, the most essential.

  • Jaan Kanellis

    Some great tips here for the newbie bloggers and experts alike.

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