One of the most important things in nonfiction writing is keeping the reader glued to the page. This means that you have to make it, not only interesting — but fascinating. If your reader gets bored, he will soon discard your article and move on to something else. One of the best ways to make sure this doesn’t happen is to use anecdotes and short stories. They are the “glue” that keeps them reading.
When should you use anecdotes and short stories? A good guide is to look for places where:
– The text is becoming dull; in particular, where there are a lot of facts and little else.
– You want to give an example.
– You want to prove an argument.
– You want to present an image.
– You merely want to amuse or distract your reader.
You can no doubt think of many other reasons, but the important thing is to use them whenever the chance arises. They’re appropriate almost anywhere, and they almost always improve your article. A good place to put them, in fact, is at the beginning, in other words, in the “lead.” An interesting anecdotal lead will draw readers in quickly.
It’s critical, however, that the anecdote make a point. It has to illustrate something. If you add a story about something that happened to you, and it doesn’t relate to what came before it, the reader will become confused and wonder why it is there.
A good way to come up with an anecdote is to think of a proverb that relates to the point you are trying to make, then rewrite the proverb into a human-interest story. In many cases the reader will remember the story long after he has forgotten about the point you are trying to make (particularly if he can identify with the person in the story).
Where do you find anecdotes and stories? They are all around you; think about the things that have happened to you that are related to the point you are trying to make. If you’re writing about yourself you should, of course, be honest, but no one is going to complain if you embellish it a little, or give it a slight twist. The important thing is that you make it interesting.
Where do you find anecdotes? A few suggestions are as follows:
– Events that took place in your workplace.
– Stories about your friends. Be careful, though; you may have to disguise their identity.
– Something you saw in the paper.
– Something someone said to you that made you laugh or think..
– Something that happened to you when you were young.
– Something that happened on TV or in a movie.
– An anecdote about someone famous.
You can come up with an interesting anecdote by quoting a crazy statistic or fact, then talking about how you reacted to it, or how you could relate to it.
It’s a good idea to try for an anecdote every two or three pages. If you see that you have gone several pages without one, try to add one. The number that you can use depends to some degree on the type of article you are writing. Certain types are more amenable than others, but in practise almost any nonfiction article can use some.