Approaches to Writing Business Books: Telling a Story or Fable

In a nutshell: The author presents a story that illustrates a problem and solution.

In the Telling a Story or Fable approach, most of the book is devoted to the story, which is typically invented and sometimes involving animals as characters and conveying a moral. Explanatory material is presented in an introduction.

This approach is used in the Wall Street Journal bestselling The Energy Bus,[1] The Energy Buswhich tells the story of George, a burn-out in the making, whose life is turned around by Joy, a bus driver he meets when his car has a flat tire. To quote from the book’s jacket flaps:

It’s Monday morning and George walks out of the front door to his car and a flat tire. But this is the least of his problems. His home life is in shambles and his team at work is in disarray. With a big new product launch coming in two weeks for the NRG-2000, he has to find a way to get it together or risk losing his marriage and job. Forced to take the bus to work, George meets a unique kind of bus driver and an interesting cast of characters who, over the course of two weeks, share the ten rules for the ride of his life. In the process, they help him turn around his work and life, saving his job and marriage from destruction.

The Telling a Story or Fable approach was famously used by Spencer Johnson in his New York Times bestselling Who Moved My Cheese?[2] Johnson uses the fable of two mice and two “Littlepeople” who live in a Maze and search for Cheese, to teach the readers that change can be a blessing, if you approach it with the proper attitude.

Books using the Telling a Story or Fable approach are designed to be easy and enjoyable to read, and offer readers a single concept or solution.

Continue reading entries in the “Approaches to Writing Business Books” blog series.

[1] Jon Gordon, John Wiley & Sons, 2007.

[2] G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1998.