This Classic Storytelling Formula Can Make Your Case Studies Sing


Most aspiring writers don’t set out with dreams of authoring case studies.

But if you’ve been forced to shelve your idea for the great American novel in order to write copy that helps put food on your table, case studies offer an opportunity to use the classic storytelling elements you learned in creative writing class.

That’s because the best case studies rely on the same narrative arc found in most great literature: a protagonist faces a significant challenge, identifies a solution, and then lives happily ever after. 

Humans are hard-wired to relate to stories built like this, which is why even in our hyper-wired, attention-span-of-a-gnat age, a good case study can still break through the clutter.

With that in mind, consider approaching your next case study in three acts:

Act I: The hero of your story faces a vexing problem. The more detail and drama you can infuse into this section, the better. As with any great story, your goal is simple: to get your readers to empathize with your hero, and see elements of their own journey in the story they’re reading.

Act II: The second act provides the climax to your tale. After struggling mightily under the weight of the challenge—and perhaps unsuccessfully trying several fixes—the hero finds the answer. For your case study, that solution comes in the form of the services, products or advice that you offer.

Act III: The final section of your case study highlights how life is good since your hero found the right solution to their problem. Provide specific details and data to highlight the success, as well as quotes that provide insight why the solution proved to be the right fix—and how it has spawned positive change. In essence, this is your hero’s “happily ever after.”

Along the way, you can also use some other storytelling tricks, such as foreshadowing, to help add complexity and texture to your tale.

You might not be following in the footsteps of Hemingway or Tolstoy, but case studies give you a chance to showcase your storytelling skills in ways that help support your mission and achieve your goals.