Tell us a Story

Andrew Morris

Professional writer and translator. Described by his mother as “a genius” and by everyone else as “that Welsh bloke”.

February 1, 2021

How to take a straight series of events and turn them into a story? Well, one of my clients is the very impressive Victorine Bokengo, a Cameroon-born entrepreneur and philanthropist who has spent the last two decades first studying in France and then running businesses in Germany. Her role now involves bringing together African and European businesses around sustainable development projects in Africa. As a consultant, her key areas of expertise are international business development, international project & event management, and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

We’ll come back to Vicky in more detail in a future blogpost, but for today, let’s just zoom in on her story. Like many (all?) human stories, it’s remarkable. It contains hidden gems and golden nuggets — and the job of the writer is to shine a light on them so that people engage with that story, and then of course take action: reaching out, making deals, doing business in whatever form. 

The key is to take the reader straight into the heart of the story. 

Here are the facts:

  • Vicky’s grandfather was the first ever Cameroonian Ambassador to France after independence.
  • Vicky was born in Douala.
  • In the summer holidays she worked in her mother’s pharmacy.
  • She made some money.
  • She invested in powdered milk and sold it to her classmates.
  • As a teenager she also sold fashion items and handbags to her friends. 
  • She thinks business was always in her genes. 

All interesting enough facts, of course, but spelled out like that they look rather bald. They need to be sequenced, linked together so that they form a narrative. 

And all it takes is choosing one key detail, a portal if you will, that plunges us into the story. From there, the facts themselves are strong enough to take over, enabling us to trust the power of the events

Little did ten-year-old Vicky know, as she earned her pocket money by helping her mother in the pharmacy she owned and ran in Kumba, that an international career in business and entrepreneurship lay ahead. But the notions of excellence, achievement and adventure were already woven into the family fabric, Vicky’s grandfather was the first Cameroonian Ambassador (at the time called Administrateur d’Outre-mer) to France after the country gained its independence in January 1960. Meanwhile, Vicky’s father was one of the pioneers of multi-party rule in Cameroon. From her father’s side, she therefore inherited diplomatic and political savvy, alongside the entrepreneurial spirit of her mother, who to this day continues to run thriving businesses. 

But that childhood summer “mini-job”, packaging medications for customers, was about more than helping Maman. Vicky used the money she earned to reinvest in powdered milk, which she then sold to her classmates during lunch breaks when school began. During her teenage years, Vicky went into fashion, purchasing handbags and reselling them to her friends and neighbours: “I guess sales has always been in my genes, something that I love doing”.

Note how it all hangs together now. A little more detail, a few connectors to give it shape, and of course a vital quote from Vicky herself to give it extra oomph.

Suddenly, our list of bullet points has turned into a story. We’re there, watching the young girl hatching her business plans. We’re with her.

And that’s the perfect start to make us want to reach out and learn more…

Over to you

Care to share your thoughts? Head on down to the comment section.

You May Also Like…

In your shoes

In your shoes

Your life, the way you tell it, is all about the people, the encounters, the events. But because you’re so familiar with each of them, it can sometimes just seem like a series of unconnected dots, not part of a pattern, and not the work of art and feat of resilience it really is.

read more
Dance with the Reader

Dance with the Reader

How do you know that you’ll keep your reader engaged? It’s impossible to guarantee, but you can at least be fairly sure that if you’re interested in the subject and engaged by it, then you’re fairly likely to take your readers on a journey with you, and not lose them along the way.

read more
Portrait of the Artist

Portrait of the Artist

Writing about art raises an age-old challenge. It is of course far harder to write concisely than to drone on for page after page. Because it requires a certain tightness of structure and language, a clear road map and an equally clear purpose.

read more

4 Comments

  1. Vicky Bokengo

    A HUGE THANK YOU dear Andrew for sharing my story! I can’t wait to share more stories with you.

    Reply
    • Andrew Morris

      Fantastic! Looking forward to more collaboration.

      Reply
  2. Gurvitch Dutès

    Hey! I am a story lover heading to be a storyteller. Your article lifts me up. Thanks so much.

    Gurvitch Dutès.

    Reply
  3. Andrew Morris

    Delighted to hear it! In which language are you writing?

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
×

Powered by WhatsApp Chat

× How can I help you?