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Finding the Narrative Arc in Thought-Leadership Writing

Updated: Apr 10

By Rhea Wessel

As I reflect on the journeys that matter most—in our lives, our work, and our societies—I'm drawn to the essence of storytelling.

It's about more than merely arranging words on a page; writing for story is about capturing what has changed because that's what defines our existence.

My own journey as a writer and thinker has been deeply shaped by trying to understand and convey these arcs, these shifts from one state to another.

The Beginning: A Seed of Change

Every story I've ever chased, every narrative I've ever woven, begins with a moment that demands exploration. It's a seed of change.

This is where we, as storytellers, must start: identifying that initial state of being or circumstance. It's in this space that our narrative takes its first breath, grounded in a reality that's about to be altered.

As I reflect on my writing projects, I realize this isn't just the start of a story; it's the start of some sort of transformation for what is being discussed. In the story I'm telling, a person will soon undergo change, a project may soon undergo change, or even an idea may soon undergo change.

The Middle: Navigating the Journey

The middle of the narrative is where the transformation is in motion.

This is where the complexity of change unfolds, where challenges are faced, and growth occurs. Thought leaders have a lot to share here because they've been through it and are trying to spare their audience some of the struggle by sharing their own experience.

When you're telling the middle, you're telling the heart of the story. You've set the scene with what is status quo, and now you're digging in to what has changed or is changing.

Take the reader on the same journey your "character" experienced. Consider what happened to set the change in motion, your so-called "inciting incidents." These are what propel our characters or projects into uncharted territories.

In my writing, I've learned to embrace this turbulence, understanding that it's here, in the midst of struggle and adaptation, where the true essence of change is revealed.

This phase is not merely a bridge between beginning and end; it's where the depth of the narrative is excavated, layer by layer.

The End: The New State of Being

And then, we arrive at the end—a conclusion that is as much a new beginning as it is an end.

This phase marks the completion of transformation, where the person or project emerges altered, shaped by the journey undertaken.

Writing these endings, I've felt a sense of accomplishment and revelation, witnessing the evolution of an idea into something tangible and transformed. It's a reminder that every end is a testament to the journey.

And a reminder that endings can be a celebration of how far we've come and how we've evolved.

Reflection: The Soul of Narrative

What ties these waypoints together into a cohesive narrative is reflection.

As a writer, I've found that delving deep into the why and how of change—examining the inciting incidents and their impact—lends my narratives a depth and relatability that resonates with readers.

This reflection is not just an examination of events but an exploration of their meaning and significance.

Crafting a narrative that truly speaks to the heart of transformation requires us to be observers, participants, and chroniclers of change.

It challenges us to look beyond the linear progression of events and delve into the complexities of transformation. Whether I'm writing about an individual's journey of self-discovery or charting the evolution of a groundbreaking project, the aim is always to capture the essence of change—to tell a story that moves, challenges, and inspires.

As I continue to write and explore the myriad stories that surround us, I am reminded that at the heart of every narrative is a simple yet profound truth: change is the only constant.

And it is in the crafting of these stories of change that we find our deepest connections to the world around us and within us.

-Rhea Wessel is a writer and founder of The Institute for Thought Leadership. Her new book on using AI to boost your thought leadership is due out late 2024.

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