3 structures using stories that keep readers turning the pages of your complexity and systems book

by | 8 Jul 2021

Stories are a powerful tool for hooking a reader and keeping them reading. You can also use stories to structure your book.

3 book structures using story

Simple narrative

If you have a rich story that can illustrate many ideas and concepts, you can use that story as the arc of your book. Each section or chapter will use the next part of the tale as a way into the ideas you are trying to get across to the reader. This has the advantage of reading like a novel with breaths to examine more deeply the thoughts the story raises.

Mini-story per idea

A common structure for non-fiction books is the story-per-idea structure. Each chapter starts with a story then jumps off from that story to dig into the concepts you are exploring. Or, the explanation of an idea can lead into a story that illustrates it. The advantage here is that the book has the variety to keep the reader interested.

Narrative backbone with mini-stories per idea

A third structure is a combination of the previous two. One overarching narrative powers the book, but you step away to mini-stories to further illuminate your concepts. Eric Schlosser did this skilfully in Command and Control. He took a backbone narrative of an accident at a nuclear missile silo and weaved it with mini-stories of other incidents with US nuclear weapons. This needs care to ensure the main story doesn’t get confused or forgotten.

You can introduce a relevant story into your book any time it is useful. Having a structure where you deliberately shape the book around a story or set of stories can help you write and keep the reader turning the pages.

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