How to Tell Your Story

August 10, 2017

Matt McCue

Matt McCue is the Editor-in-Chief of 99U. He lives in New York City, but he is willing to travel long distances for a good meal. Find him @mattmccuewriter or email him at

Matt McCue, Editor-in-Chief of 99U, published "How to Tell Your Story," a five-step guide for how to build and develop a compelling narrative to more effectively market your work and that can be adapted to your preferred storytelling medium.

The belief is that "stories serve as an organic means of marketing what you’re doing, provide additional ways to connect with an audience, and allow you to promote your work without feeling like a self-promoter."

Ladies, that last bit is especially important because it's well documented that women are less likely to toot their own horns, counter-intuitive to building that killer portfolio and landing the next gig.

Be sure to check out Matt's full article on 99U, and here are the key takeaways:

Step 1: Find your story by identifying your unique spin on a universal theme

Once you've outlined your universal themes to find the one that best fits your journey, then sketch out the details that paint your character portrait using as many bits of real-life flavor as you can come up with. Once you’ve done this, you’ve established who you are and where you’re going: the start of your story.

Step 2: Take us on an adventure

Your goal is to add as many memorable wrinkles to the narrative as you can in order to differentiate your tale from every other one in the marketplace that follows a similar theme. Look for stories within a story and start weaving them together to give your narrative a unique texture and richness that allows it to stand apart, and stand on its own. 

Step 3: Reveal your struggles

No good story is complete without conflict, which means you have to share the tough moments and moments when you failed. Showing your vulnerability isn’t a sign of weakness. It shows you’re real, and that gives your audience another way to relate to you. 

Step 4: Add literary spice to jazz it up  

Add details in spots where they can make the biggest impact, in particular those moments that are out of the ordinary or when you are introducing a particular character or scenario. As you develop your style, your goal should be to say things in fresh ways.

Step 5: Teach us something we can benefit from   

As the storyteller, this is your chance to show your value. What do you know that the rest of us don't? Providing value to your audience, something at the heart of any good story, makes what you say worth listening to.