Oh, the Stories You’ll Tell

Lots of students know that stories make a good impression.  But deciding WHAT stories to tell can be a challenge!  If you’re not naturally using stories in your writing (which most students are not), then trying to insert a good story right when you need one is a tough task.

To help you understand your storytelling options, here’s a quick break down of the different types of stories you can include in your ACT writing.  Once you know what your options are, then it becomes easier to decide what to use!


1. The Personal Story = Yes, you can in fact tell a story about yourself.  These stories are actually the easiest to include, simply because they’re about you.  You don’t have to think hard or imagine hazy details from someone’s else.  Just glance in your memory to come up with a relevant story.  (And yes, it is okay to use “I” when writing a personal story).

2. Someone Else’s Story = Can’t think of anything cool happening to you that’s relevant to your ACT essay’s point?  That’s okay – just tell the story of someone else!  Just think of something that you know happened to a friend or family member, and use that!

3. Current Events / News = And let’s say that you can’t think of anything cool that happened to you personally or to someone you know.  Then just pick a story that happened to anyone else!  That’s right – any current event, anything you’ve seen on the news, counts as a story.  Write about what happened to anyone else, and it works just as well as any other story.

4. Historical Examples = So nothing current comes to mind for a story?  Then you can also tell the story of anything that’s happened in history.  History is nothing more than people and their experiences, so pick one that works and tell us about it.  This means that just about anything that has happened ever could be effectively used in your ACT essay!

5. Literature, Movies, Pop Culture = And hey, if something in the real world doesn’t work for you, you can also choose a story from the world of fiction.  Sometimes these stories work even better than real ones since they are designed to teach us a lesson.

6. “Imagine if…” = You can also choose to write a hypothetical situation, kind of like your own fiction story.  All you need to do is start with the phrase “Imagine if…” and tell about a situation that fits what your argument needs.


*Bonus: Should the stories we tell be true

Every student thinks at some point, “Should the stories I tell actually be true, or can I just make them up?  They won’t know the difference, will they?”

Your stories should be true.  No, the graders usually won’t know the difference, unless you blow it and tell a ridiculous story they know is obviously false.  But there are two big reasons why your stories should be true.  First, you don’t want to be a liar, do you?  No one would know, but to me it doesn’t make sense to just make up stories to prove a point, even if it’s for a test.  Second, if the only way you can prove a point is by making up a false story, then is your point even that good in the first place?