Storyteller's Writing Workshop

Storyteller's Writing Workshop

March 8: Washington, DC
May 23: Kansas City
July 11: Fort Collins, Colorado
Sept. 13: Clearwater, Florida
Price: $945
Member Price: $795
  • Make every word count for impatient, distracted audiences
  • Write headlines and teasers readers can't ignore
  • Choose the right words to enliven video, photos, infographics and social media
  • Fine-tune your reporting skills to add color and texture to your storytelling

Twitter hashtag: #RaganWriting

Product Code: YZWW
  • Presenters:
    Mark Ragan Ragan Communications, Inc.
    Mark Ragan
    Publisher and CEO
    Jim Ylisela Ragan Consulting Group
    Jim Ylisela
    Co-owner and managing partner


9-10 a.m.
Choose the right words for the right stories
In their workshops, Mark Ragan and Jim Ylisela like to ask, "Have you ever been bored by anything you've written?" Every hand goes up. If you're bored, your audience will be, too. No amount of magic dust will turn content you find boring into communication that thrills your audience. But wait, you say: "Some of this stuff really is boring, but we have to produce it anyway." That's not good enough.

If you want to win over audiences, you must:

  • Make the essential interesting, no matter how boring
  • Use the 80/20 rule: Make information (80 percent) clear and concise to make room for storytelling that matters (20 percent)
  • Choose the best way to tell your best stories
  • Overcome the barriers to great storytelling in your own shop

Assignment #1: Who's got a story? What's the greatest story you've yet to tell? Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.

10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Reporting by shoe leather and any other means possible
You can't write good stories in any medium if you don't have the raw material to work with. Too often, communicators are writing at a disadvantage. You don't have enough stuff. You don't have the background or context. Worse yet, you don't have any color—the elements of your story that let us see, hear and touch what we may never directly experience.

What's the essence of good reporting? That's easy: humans. You can't tell a good story without them. What was true for Shakespeare remains true today: The best stories make us root for heroes as they work to overcome obstacles and achieve goals. Who are these people? Where can we find them? How do we get them to share their feelings, their passions and even their failings as they pursue important goals?

In this session, we'll show you how to:

  • Organize your reporting. What are your must-haves? What are your nice-to-haves?
  • Cast a wide net. Who can help you tell this story? Where can you get the context and background to make your words matter?
  • Think big. What would really make this story sing?
  • Find color. What can you see? What can you describe, even if you're not there?
  • Who are the right people? Where do I find them? How do I get them to sound like actual humans, with feeling?

Assignment #2: For your own story, identify your must-haves and tell us what would make this a kick-butt story. Then show us how it looks and feels. We're looking for one great paragraph of color to get us started.

Assignment #3: We're looking for one good quote—and a story to match—in this interview exercise.

12:15-1:15 p.m.

1:30-2:30 p.m.
Time to get organized
You've done a good job of reporting. You've researched the information and background you need. You've found the right humans and had good conversations with them. You even picked up some great color to give the story life. Now what? You can't just take everything you've gathered and spill it onto the screen. That would make you a stenographer. It's time to organize what you have into a clear, coherent, moving story.

In this session, we'll show you how to:

  • Take all this great stuff and shape it into a story people will read
  • Decide what to leave out
  • Be a better editor of your own stories—and the work of others
  • Build a narrative arc to organize the flow and rhythm of your story

2:45-4 p.m.
Get the big stuff right and put a bow on it
All that planning and hard work will fall short if you don't get readers' attention, pull them into your story and keep them there. What will make people take notice, pay attention and act? What will keep them reading, or watching? Get the big stuff right, and you'll give your stories a fighting chance to cut through the clutter.

We'll show you how to:

  • Write headlines and teasers readers can't ignore
  • Choose the right lead for the story. Pull readers in and give them a running start
  • Open with a compelling anecdote that makes readers want more
  • Create transitions that allow readers to take a breath—and keep going

Assignment #4: Headlines and teasers are your best—and sometimes only—shot at drawing crowds and leading them to your content. In our final exercise, we'll write some headlines that sell the benefits of your story.

4-4:30 p.m.
Go forth and conquer
Your story is far from finished, but you should be ready to report, organize, write and edit a great tale. We'll finish with some of our favorite stories that capture all of the elements—and inspire you to do your best work.

Go get 'em.