This Is Why Reading Fiction Can Help You Write Better Business Books

Emotionally powerful narratives will keep people riveted by your business book. Fiction can show you how to write them.

Free Book Preview: Brand Renegades

Discover how two entrepreneurs used unconventional business strategies to turn their startup into a multimillion-dollar company.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor
Ghostwriter & Book Coach
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Humans seem hardwired to consume and enjoy stories. Fictional stories shape the way we think, affect how we act and influence our choices. 

One study revealed that “good ” increased cooperation within a Filipino hunter-gatherer population. And Alexander the Great slept with a copy of Homer’s Iliad next to him every night, a fictional story he used as a blueprint for his conquests. That story drove his choices and changed history.

The average adult spends about 6 percent of his or her time every day engrossed in fictional stories. Evolutionary theorists have attempted to understand why humans are so eager to consume fiction. But a nonfiction writer doesn’t need to know why, only that

By leveraging this human proclivity for powerful stories, nonfiction writers can vastly improve the quality of the books they’re writing.

Narrative nonfiction and emotionally powerful prose

Narrative nonfiction, also known as creative nonfiction, is a of nonfiction writing that uses an approach similar to fiction writing. For example, the nonfiction book might follow the story arc very precisely and have a clearly defined beginning, middle, climax and end. 

The primary purpose of fiction is to entertain. There are many advanced skills writers can use to up the entertainment value of their business books. These skills include emotionally powerful prose, changes in rhythm, smooth shifts in pacing and vivid descriptions. 

The way to learn all these advanced methods is to read a lot of fiction. 

I’m a big fan of narrative nonfiction. Whenever someone wants a book written, I try and persuade him or her to use this method of writing if possible. My purpose when working with writers is to ensure the book they are writing will be read from beginning to end. Making the book entertaining is key.

Related: Why Storytelling Is a Skill that Every Entrepreneur Should Practice

Leverage the five senses 

Description using the five senses is an excellent way to suck your reader into your story. The more engrossed your reader is, the deeper the emotional impact of your narrative.

This applies to business books, memoirs, general nonfiction, self-help and many other nonfiction subgenres. 

Too much description, however, can make a book boring. The way to learn what is “too much” or “too little” is to read a lot of popular fiction. The best fiction books use the senses of taste, smell and touch to bring the readers into the story and so involve them emotionally. 

Brand perception has a lot to do with emotional responses, so this is a vital skill to learn when writing nonfiction. 

Related: How to Build a Brand Story That Buyers Emotionally Connect With

Pick up the pace and capture the interest

Whether you’re telling an anecdote or writing about your life’s story, modifying the pacing of the story goes a long way towards evoking powerful emotions in people. 

Thrillers are particularly good at this, especially near the end of the story. Two writers who do this expertly are Harlan Coben and Lee Child. 

By shortening sentences and paragraphs, you immediately accelerate the narrative pace. The same is achieved by shifting quickly from scene to scene. 

If you were writing a sales book, you could make readers inch forward in their seats and grip their books (or e-readers) a little tighter by writing a fast-paced anecdote of a million-dollar deal. You could jump back and forth between the manager, the salesperson and maybe even the spouse waiting outside their child’s school, eagerly awaiting a call to know if the deal went through — or if they just lost the house! 

Not only will the chapter be exciting, but it will also be memorable

Related: How to Sell Anything to Anyone by Telling Great Stories

Anything can be turned into a story if you know how

Once, I worked with an author who had very little to write about other than a short system.

So, we hacked away and worked out how to fill the book with narratives and emotional beats from beginning to end. What began as a lukewarm book quickly became a riveting read.

It does take a bit of smart thinking to figure out how to add emotionally powerful narratives to a book. Reading a lot of good fiction teaches you how to do it and pays off when your business book flies off the shelves. 

More from Entrepreneur
Entrepreneur Select: A Fund For Entrepreneurs, By Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs require more than just money, which is why we aim to empower you, as well as act as a catalyst for value creation.

Book Sale - Save 60%!


Through 6/20/21, save on our collection of recommended side hustle and Start Your Own books, including:

  • Start Your Own eBay Business
  • Start Your Own Business
  • Start Your Own Etsy Business
  • And more

Use code SIDEHUSTLE2021 to claim your savings!

Make sure you’re covered for physical injuries or property damage that occur at work by
  • Providing us with basic information about your business
  • Verifying details about your business with one of our specialists
  • Speaking with an agent who is specifically suited to insure your business

Latest on Entrepreneur