Winning With Stories: Using the Narrative to Persuade in Trials, Speeches & Lectures

Once upon a time . . .

So begins Winning with Stories: Using the Narrative to Persuade in Trials, Speeches & Lectures, an examination of the power of the story in the art of persuasion. In this eminently readable work of sound scholarship, author Jim M. Perdue proves that the story, as our primary vehicle for learning and teaching, is as valid today as it was to our ancient ancestors. “Stories reaffirm our belief that our institutions exist as solutions to problems,” writes Perdue. “Stories deny the proposition that life can only admit to hopelessness and uncertainty. Since the beginning of time, narratives have carried the truths of hope and justice.”

Beginning with an exploration of the story concept, Perdue analyzes narrative elements in detail, showing how to craft a story with a strong beginning, memorable scenes, believable characters, a logical plot, vivid action, and a moving conclusion. Going beyond these basics, Perdue demonstrates how to tell the story to maximum effect, with attention to concepts as broad as giving “soul” to the story and as specific as what the speaker should wear. Mannerisms, physical movement, use of illustrative visuals, and other storytelling considerations are covered in detail. The author gives generously of his more than forty years of courtroom experience to show novice and veteran lawyers alike how to tell a powerful story to motivate an audience.

Far more than a practical analysis of storytelling, Winning with Stories is also an invaluable anthology of stories that speakers can use to make and illustrate a point. Included are abundant examples of useful labels, metaphors, similes, clichés, analogies, quotations, poetry, personal anecdotes, and humorous stories, traced to their roots in ancient and modern history, the Bible, children’s tales, books, movies, plays, and folklore. Rounding out these invaluable resources are illustrative examples of actual opening statements and closing arguments the author has used to inspire juries to a just verdict.

Like Perdue’s previous books, Winning with Stories will be an indispensable reference for the trial lawyer seeking more effective persuasion techniques and an invaluable tool for lecturers, ministers, and teachers—anyone who studies or practices the art of persuasion.


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Part 1:  The Story Concept
1. The Power of the Story
2. Why a Story?

Part 2:  Crafting a Story
3. The Strong Beginnning
4. Setting the Scene
5. Developing Strong Characters
6. Presenting a Compelling Plot
7. Let the Audience Live the Action
8. Choosing a Cognitive Theme
9. Negating the Negatives
10. Complete the Circle with a Strong Ending

Part 3:  Telling the Story
11. The Power of the Person
12. The Power of the Telling
13. The Power of the Sequence
14. The Power of the Pictures
15. The Power of the Story from Adverse Witnesses: Cross-Examination Storytelling

Part 4:  Our Values
16. The Source of the Trial Lawyer’s Values and Beliefs
17. Consider Your Audience
18. Inspiring with Your Trial Story

Part 5:  Stories within Stories
19. Labels
20. Metaphors
21. Similes and Cliches
22. Analogies
23. Quotatioins
24. Poetry
25. Anecdotes and Humorous Stories:

Ancient History
The Bible
Children’s Stories
Modern History
Books, Plays, and Folklore
Personal Stories

Part 6:  Courtroom Stories
26. Illustrative Opening Statement
         Truck-Auto Collision Kills Plaintiff’s Son
27. Illustrative Opening Statement
         Premises–Unsafe Ladder
28. Illustrative Closing Summation
         Baby Brain Damaged at Birth Due to Obstetrical Nursing Negligence
29. Illustrative Closing Summation
         Pathology Mistake Leaves Woman Disfigured
30. Illustrative Closing Summation
         Anesthesia Misadventure Kills Husband

Story Morals Index
Name and Title Index
Subject Index

Praise for Winning with Stories

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Jim M. Perdue has put on paper what makes him a courtroom legend. This is the best guide yet on how to persuade judges and juries. Read it, study it, follow its step-by-step approach, and you are guaranteed to become a better trial lawyer. This is a book every lawyer needs to own.
– Peter T. Hoffman, Director, Blakely Advocacy Institute, University of Houston Law Center

If you read this book with your own cases in mind, I guarantee you will find more winning ways of showing your juries why they must decide the story your case presents in your favor. But it’s not just trial lawyers who need to read this book. Teachers and all public speakers who care about their audience and their topic should also read and absorb its simple yet profound message: you can persuade an audience far better and move your listeners more deeply with a story than with an argument.
– Dennis Donnelly, President, Inner Circle of Advocates

Perdue’s big-as-all-outdoors book doesn’t just give us formulas and checklists, it also mines deeply into literature and culture to show how the great stories of the last few thousand years have worked their persuasive magic. This is a book to read and savor, and refer to over and over.
– Patrick Malone, President, Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., and coauthor of Rules of the Road: A Plaintiff Lawyer’s Guide to Proving Liability

This book is an amazingly useful tool for any communicator. Within the first two chapters, I found myself analyzing my next Sunday’s sermon, asking, “Have I stated my point in a vivid way, or an inert one? Will my congregation learn, remember, and be inspired?”
– Jeff Berger, Senior Pastor, South Avenue Baptist Church, Pasadena, Texas

A bible of the art of trial, Winning with Stories cuts the learning curve for young lawyers by ten or fifteen years.
Jack Olender, Washington, D.C.

A must read for all litigators who want to win, and should be a required text for all who study or practice persuasion.
William B. English, Director of Speech Communication, Baylor University

The power of story is as old as humans and fire, and the fire of Jim Perdue comes through the pages of this book. It is an outstanding resource. Read it—and you will be a better lawyer.
Jim Fitzgerald, Cheyenne, Wyoming

Purchase Winning with Stories: Using the Narrative to Persuade in Trials, Speeches & Lectures