More than just the “facts” – How to make your articles grab your readers

I’ve been seeing a ton of people expressing interest in having an article published on major media like HuffingtonPost, MindBodyGreen, or Chicken Soup for the Soul.

030315-StoryWhile these media outlets accept the standard ‘How to’ type articles or the ‘7 Steps to a Better {blank}’ the real juicy bylines go to those people who can tell a compelling story. These are the stories that have the potential to go viral as they change lives.

But what makes these stories so great?

(And for the record, I’m not going to go into the “givens” of making sure your article length is correct, you submit according to the guidelines, and that your article has been read over for grammar mistakes!)

1. They’re compelling

It’s not JUST the facts, ma’am. It’s a glimpse not just into what you did, but how you feel. The emotions coming through the page are what turns these articles from a ho-hum accounting of an event, moment, or epiphany into something that transcends the screen and makes you feel.

2. Not a word is wasted

Not only are the best articles NOT stuffed with fluff, but they are crafted to move the reader easily from one sentence to the next; one paragraph to the next. And note, this isn’t the blogging Golden Rule of using bullets! This is the crafting of the language itself from something mundane into something beautiful.

3. You can “hear” the author’s voice

I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of writing on the internet is completely homogenous – it all sounds the same. And for a lot of it, it SHOULD. But in these stories, the author’s voice shines through and you get a glimpse into his or her head.

And how do you do this?

#Stories help people relate - How to make your #story sparkle! Click To Tweet

First off, realize that these articles aren’t exactly non-fiction. They’re not fiction by any means – they’re NOT completely made up. Think of it as the difference between a photo you snap with your phone versus one you run through Instagram. The POWER of Instagram is to take a true-to-life picture and apply filters and adjustments to turn it from something okay into something fantastic, artistic, and moving.

You’re doing the same thing with your story…

This is a subgenre called Creative Non-Fiction that basically boils down to applying the techniques of fiction to a real-life event. These usually include:

  • Plot
  • Characterization
  • Pacing


You don’t want to completely take the sequence of events and toss it out the window BUT you also don’t need a minute-by-minute account of what happened either. Apply a filter to the event so only the most relevant bits are there and the rest falls away. What you DON’T want is something that reads like a timeline – that’s boring!

Chicken Soup For The Soul: “No Room For Alligators”
Notice how the author moves from event to event WITHOUT the “I turned the key in the ignition, put it into drive, pushed the gas pedal” type of exposition.

HuffingtonPost: “Each Day I’m a Mother, A Piece of Me Dies”
These are more like vignettes or slice of life – we don’t need plot transitions from one section to another


030315-CharacterYou’re telling a story based off a real event or person – so the people in the story become characters. You’re not creating a character from scratch but you’re bringing to light the aspects of their personality that you want to highlight. And this goes for your 1st person narrator (yourself) as well! Your reader only needs to see the parts of your ‘character’ that are relevant to the story at hand – and you can (and should!) ignore everything else.

MindBodyGreen: How I Finally Found The Courage To Quit My Job & Move To Hawaii
The narrator is only showing his family as brief character sketches – we don’t get into or NEED any details about his wife, father, or the locals.

HuffingtonPost: Life With a Traumatic Brain Injury
The narrator, Amy, is skilled at making herself into a robust character – but still only giving the information the reader really needs to know.


This can mean in the plot itself or in the use of language. Think of when you’re telling a story to a friend and you draw out certain details, speak slower, even lower your voice. This is the same in writing! You can gloss over some things and give gritty details of others. You’ll also want to vary your sentence length for emphasis and to control how quickly your reader gets to certain information.

New Frontier Books: The Best Feeling
You’ll see how I bounced between now, college, and back to now. Also notice the differences between longer sentences that allow the reader to hang out in them against the shorter, choppy sentences that drive the narrative.
If you’ve been published in a media outlet like these (with a story – not a how-to) share how you used tools from fiction to make your story shine.

Never had a ‘story’ published? What makes a story stand out in your mind and makes you want to keep reading?

Kim Galloway
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