Stark’s Tips for Writing a Narrative

The last post discussed limits on using story-telling techniques in an appellate brief’s statement of facts. This one covers Steven Stark’s tips on how to write the powerful story. Steven Stark authored the book Writing to Win. In his book, he offers six rules for the strong narrative:

  • think of yourself as a story-teller
  • write about people
  • remember that plot is overrated
  • create word pictures that make the story come alive
  • use specific detail
  • use realistic dialogue that reveals the person’s character.

In making these points, Stark urges lawyers to write about people because most of the legal writing that lawyers read are judicial opinions that often give “the law” far more prominence than the parties. He suggests tongue-in-cheek that no one would want to read a story titled, A Day in the Life of the Reasonable Man. Yet we lawyers continue to write our briefs that way.

Stark similarly suggests “realistic dialogue” or quotes to allow the parties to tell their story in their own words. When people speak in their own words, they may convey much more information than the substance of what was said. Stark suggests using the quotes to reveal the parties as people.

Lastly, Stark encourages brief writers to first focus on the specific and then the general, and use detail to capture place rather than describe people. Descriptions of people should be left vague, he argues, so that the reader may put themselves in your client’s place.

This is, of course, an incomplete and sketchy summary of Stark’s thoughts on how to write a strong narrative. For more guidance, please purchase the book. It is extremely helpful.

Anyone have other tips to add? You can reach me at


One thought on “Stark’s Tips for Writing a Narrative

  1. Pingback: 9th Circuit Brief-Writing Tips - Law Offices of Robert Hill

Leave a Reply