How to write about difficult topics.

pexels-photo-569170.jpegThe secret to telling not-for-profit stories.

Storytelling isn’t always easy. At Quip Brands, we write for a significant number of not-for-profits. While all do incredible work, the type of work they do, and the difficult subject matter we face, can equate to some harrowing days at the keyboard. To be able to capture their story, we must be exposed to the harsh realities at a level most, thankfully, are spared.


After all, like life, it can’t all be puppies (but, we do love writing about puppies).


We’ve had to interview parents who have lost children, or adult children losing their parents slowly to terrible illnesses. We have read background reports that detail the frightening realities faced by the poorest and most disadvantaged, locally and globally. Whether it’s sexual assault or child marriage, there’s no easy way to delve into the personal and tragic stories that these generous case studies share in the hope that others will be spared their trauma.


It’s hard, and it impacts you, but if somebody is willing to share something painful with you, it’s a privilege—and as storytellers, it’s our role to do it justice. While there are many rules that form our writing process, we adhere to the following when the story being told isn’t an easy one to hear.


  1. Experience the emotion


You can’t shy away from it. If you’re going to capture a story and give others a sense of the hardship, you have to immerse yourself in it. We always keep a good supply of tissues here at Quip Brands, because if it doesn’t make you cry, you’re probably not doing it right.


  1. Have empathy for the reader


The reader is your audience. It’s not your role to hurt them or anger them—when telling a difficult story, it’s important to have empathy for your reader, knowing they may relate, or that it may even spark something deep within them.


  1. Let the story speak its own truth


In an era where Hollywood has fed our sense of drama, it’s easy as a writer to want to polish and provoke through crafting a well-oiled narrative; but authenticity is ultimately what will lure the reader in. Leaving in the imperfections of speech, keeping descriptive text to a minimum, and taking the reader gently into the shoes of the subject, is always more powerful than amplifying the drama.


There is no greater privilege as a writer than to be trusted with another person’s story. It’s why, no matter how challenging it gets, we are passionate about writing for not-for-profits.

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