What makes a good story?

A story on television about the need for knitters to help create 60,000 poppies made us sit up and reflect on why it was such a good story.

We have dissected the story into bite-sized chunks to demonstrate why the story resonated with us and how it is possible to put together stories of similar quality for any organisation.

In short, the story was a simple call to action, appealing to people with an interest in history, using the symbol of the poppy to represent a lost life (see our previous blog on data and stories), and it was emotional in a practical way,

The intro

“The call has gone out to knitters from around Australia to help create 60,000 poppies to mark the centenary of the end of World War I in November 2018.

It is hoped the poppies will carpet part of the grounds at the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in time for commemorations.

The story could have stopped there. It gives enough information for anyone to google for more. It answers the who (knitters), what (poppies), why (to mark the centenary), when (November 2018) where (Australian War Memorial) and how (knitting).


Each poppy knitted will represent an Australian life lost in World War I, with the Great War remaining the costliest conflict to Australia in terms of deaths.

Out of the 416,809 men who enlisted, 60,000 were killed and 156,000 were wounded, gassed or taken prisoner.

Here we are drawn into the facts and figures, allowing us to draw a word picture of poppies representing lost lives, our emotions are heightened with the descriptions of how the soldiers died. We are given a compelling argument about why we should find our knitting needles.

Adding personality into it

To help the poppy project, a growing group of Canberrans with a flair for fabric regularly meet to add to the growing haul of poppies by knitting, crocheting and felting more creations.

Keen knitter Kerry Apted is helping to organise the project and said she marvels at how enthusiastic people are about the idea.

"People from all over Australia knit these poppies and post them in," she said.

"It's about being of service but it's also about remembrance.

These quotes allow us to learn more about the project and get an insight into the person who is helping to organise the project. The ‘talent’ (as we call people who are quoted) is personable, and explains more about the project in an inviting way. She is not hiding behind words or jargon.

History with humour

Fittingly, the knitters meet at the War Memorial's cafe, which is named Poppy's not after the flower, but in memory of Trooper David 'Poppy' Pearce, an Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan.

"We're sitting in a building that is named after somebody to commemorate him giving his life and his service," Ms Apted said.

Here the story turns to the past to remind us why these people are knitting. If this detail was not in the story it would not matter, but the fact there is a reason why the group meets at the café and the story behind why the café is called Poppy’s is another lovely wordpicture.

How we can all get involved

And the handmade project is a family affair for Meredith Atilemile, who crochets while her mother, Kath Schroder, knits.

Ms Atilemile's grandfather was an original Anzac and her brother is currently serving in the Defence Force.

"Just about everybody who got involved at the beginning had someone who they wanted to remember," she said.

"It might have been an individual in their family or it might have been the names on their local community's war memorial."

She said people often mailed in poppies with dedications attached.

"People wrote the story of Great Uncle Fred or someone who might have come home but not been the same," she said.

"People also wrote dedications for their son who was currently serving."

This section is a gentle call to arms: you can knit or crochet, it is easy to do and it is a great way to bring family or friends together to honour soldiers.


The knitters meet fortnightly on Sundays and Thursdays in Canberra, and there is also a group in Melbourne, as well as people around the country who post in their creations to the 5000 Poppies Facebook group coordinating the project.The group also makes sure the many patterns for the various poppies are available online.

The story wraps up with information about how to get involved, and signposts for more information.

Pic by ABC News: Siobhan Heanue.