Wednesday, October 21, 2015

For Non-fiction Authors: Tips for Choosing the Right Story

by Katy Kauffman @KatyKauffman28

Tips for Choosing the Right Story
Stories are powerful tools for the non-fiction writer. They grab the reader’s attention, add personality to your writing, and illustrate the point you’re trying to make. Whether you’re writing a blog post, an article, or a book, how do you know which story is the best to use?

I don’t how many times I’ve spent hours researching details for a story, only to end up choosing a different angle. But the time was well spent. Writing is a process of trying and failing and finding what works. The five hours it can take to write one article becomes five minutes of inspiration and encouragement for the reader, inspiration that impacts their daily living. So perhaps I can help you streamline the time it takes to pick the right story. Ask yourself 5 questions when you find a good story online or recall one from your own life.

1. Does the story relate well to my topic?
Don’t just pick a story you want to share—pick the story that best relates to your point. If you find a story you love but is not on topic, print it and put it in a special folder, or save it to a folder on your computer called “Story Archive” or something more fun like “My Story Treasure Chest.” Then you can still use the story later!

Is the mood the same?
2. Does the story have the same mood as the rest of my writing?
Each story emits a particular mood or “vibe.” See if the story’s mood matches the mood of your writing—is it encouraging, somber, funny, or satirical?

3. Is the story believable?
For stories you find online, verify the source as credible, and cite any amazing facts or specific statistics. For example, in my latest book I used the speed of Usain Bolt, the fastest man alive, to show how quickly we need to turn from temptation. I cited the fact that he could run 26.7 mph so my book remained credible and so readers could check out the story for themselves.

Does it have enough spiritual relevance and impact?
4. Does the story have enough spiritual relevance and impact?
If you are writing about a spiritual principle, make sure the story you select is strong enough to support your point. Is it a big enough diving board for the reader to use to jump into a spiritual mindset and dive into your principle? Think “parable.”

5. Is the story memorable?
Can the reader picture the story happening? Write it like a storyteller would relate it. Choose a scenario that will stir the readers’ emotions, relate an interesting fact, picture a surprising turn of events, put a new twist on an object or a scene they see every day, or recount the path someone took to restoration. Stories of tragedy and triumph are especially memorable, and give us hope.

I may not be able to remember my pastor’s three-point sermons verbatim every week, but I can usually remember the stories he used. Pick a memorable story that will encourage readers and stir them to action long after they’ve closed your book or turned off their computers.

How do you pick the best stories for your writing? Tell us, and join the conversation!


Katy Kauffman is an award-winning writer and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies, a ministry which seeks to connect people to God through His Word. She has taught the Bible to women and teens, and has two published Bible studies for women, 2 Timothy: Winning the Victory and Faith, Courage, and Victory. She is an editor of the new Refresh Bible Study Magazine and the designer of Broken but Priceless: The Magazine. She makes her home near Atlanta, Georgia.


  1. You read my mind. I am praying about what stories to use in my book. This is very helpful I am going to compare my story against your list. You are amazing Katy.

    1. Thank you, Cherrilynn. I am glad you found the post helpful! I pray God's blessings on your book!