Stories are bacon

Like bacon, stories will make everything you write more compelling. They are the most important element of your nonfiction book.

(If eating bacon is offensive to you, this metaphor won’t work for you, so don’t read on.)

Here is why stories are like bacon:

A little goes a long way

No one wants a meal that’s nothing but bacon.

And no one wants to read an idea-based nonfiction book that’s all stories. Narratives (history, corporate narratives, memoirs) can be 100% stories. But if you’re writing a book about ideas, no more than half of it should be stories.

Case study stories — the most effective type — should be no more than 1000 words long.

No one stops eating bacon in the middle

In the same way, no one stops reading a case study story in the middle. As long as the story is well-written, you can be sure that the reader will get to the end of it.

Don’t just grind it up and mix it in

Sure, you can put bits of bacon in everything. But it’s tastiest if it’s identifiable — layered on top of a burger, or in pieces in a salad, for example.

In the same way, you want to maintain the integrity of your stories. They should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They shouldn’t be mixed up with argumentation. After the end, don’t come back and keep telling the story — talk about what it means.

Everything is more palatable wrapped in it

If you want people to believe what you’re saying, wrap it in a story.

Tell the story, then tell “the moral of the story,” which is the message you want to get across.

Just as no one will stop reading a story in the middle, almost everyone will accept the message you tell immediately after the story. Just make the connection, and they’ll believe you.

Wrap the idea in story-bacon and it will go down easy — and the reader will smile and say “Ahhhh.”

Don’t spare the stories

Do the research. Find the people. Tell what they learned.

Life without bacon would be a little paler and less interesting. Just like a nonfiction book without stories.

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  1. I’ve read that bacon is the gateway food that takes vegetarians back to the meat-eating world. There’s another point to make in there somewhere.