How to tell a riveting story
When I was 12, my family moved from the suburbs of Warren, Ohio to a 100-year-old farmhouse in the country.
For as long as I could remember, my dad had always planted a garden. Even on our tiny lots in the city.
Now out in the boonies, we had a lot more room to spread out…
And the family garden went from a tiny postage stamp to 11,000 square feet.
To give you some perspective, that’s nearly a quarter of a football field.
We didn’t have a lot of fancy equipment, but we did have “free labor” in the form of two boys with energy to spare.
My brother and I spent many a blistering July afternoon hacking down knee-high weeds in soil baked rock-hard by the merciless sun.
The expression “he has a tough row to hoe” has a very literal and visceral meaning to me.
To pass the time we’d drag a battery-powered boombox out there with us.
Every day, I looked forward to 3:07 p.m.
That’s when legendary radio news announcer Paul Harvey’s distinct voice would crackle out of the tinny speakers:
“Now, The Rest of the Story.”
This radio segment was sheer storytelling genius.
He’d launch right into his tale.
No long preamble.
No “throat clearing” introduction.
Just place and time and dialog—pure story that carried you somewhere far away…
One that stands out in my memory was about a young man who was badly beaten in a bar fight—to the point where he couldn’t recognize his own face.
But this young man had a job interview the next day… A casting call for a movie role.
And despite his disfigured face, he mustered up the courage to go anyway…
That’s how it went every time.
He’d tell you this incredible true story.
Sometimes it was a love story that warmed your heart. Sometimes it was about triumph over incredible adversity.
But the thing that really made me tune in day after day to hear these stories was the WAY he told them.
Because he never revealed the identity of the “mysterious stranger” until the very end.
You’d sit on the edge of your seat (or lean on your hoe, as the case may be)…
Until his finally the payoff came:
“He got the role they were casting for. They were looking for someone to play the rugged role of Mad Max and this Australian with the beaten up face went on to become one of our best modern-day actors. We know him as Mel Gibson.”
Then he’d pause dramatically, and you’d hear him say through a grandfatherly smile:
“And now you know the rest of the story.”
Thinking back, a lot of what I know about copywriting and storytelling came from hanging on every word of those stories.
Paul Harvey passed away a few years ago at 90.
He can never be replaced.
But there’s a YouTube channel with a compilation of some of his best stories.
Listen to a few—then use this suspense-building technique in your copy.
Here’s the link: