Anecdotes aren’t just for sparkling chitchat at dinner parties. When crafted with an honest eye, a nonfiction anecdote can tether a complex issue to a flesh-and-blood human being, bringing an understanding to readers they wouldn’t obtain otherwise. A book with illuminating anecdotes can even establish an author as an expert. If a non-fiction book doesn’t have anecdotes, it can be a turn off to publishers.

Sculpting an enlightening anecdote — or even a helpful one — isn’t easy.

Here are 5 laws to abide by when writing anecdotes: