Tell stories. Change minds.

1. Hook with cortisol 

Powerful stories don’t rely on fearmongering – they use the stress hormone for good. The best ones surprise us, rather than trigger harmful levels of panic. Carefully teasing out our fight or flight response. 

Get your reader’s attention with something unexpected, mildly nerve-racking or surprising. 

Tips to try:

  • Start with the reason to care – maybe a big fact, stat or opinionated statement 
  • Say something unexpected (remember Tony’s Chocolonely?) 
  • Be disarmingly honest 

2. Engage with oxytocin 

We’re all suckers for stories. Oxytocin’s got a lot to answer for – making us more empathetic, and more open to connection and change. We release it by the truckload for emotional, character-driven stories. 

Bring in characters to help your message resonate and make people want to act. 

Tips to try: 

  • Add a human face; recognisable, relatable characters 
  • Find the emotion, even when it doesn’t jump out (think of our escalator sign) 

3. Reward with dopamine 

Remember Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘shape of stories’? Science tells us tales that end well make us happy, because our brains release dopamine. It’s our reward for sticking with a character through their ups and downs. 

Make people care by using a story structure we all respond to. 

Tips to try: 

  • Use the ‘Somebody wants’, ‘But’, ‘So’ framework. 

    Somebody wants… look at the character and their goal 
    But… something’s getting between the character and their goal 
    So… the character does something about the obstacle, and it all turns out well