Simple tips on how to develop a story

You don't need to consider yourself to be a proficient storyteller to share a story. Storytelling is not for an elite group or a select few. People are sharing stories all around, all the time; at a market, cafe, gym, doctor practice, or even on a bus ride. They're quite capable at it, don’t you think?

A quick internet search on ‘storytelling’ reveals an endless list of explanations, descriptions, methods, examples, downloads, eBooks and how to’s. Even I’m crying out for help.

If sharing stories is something you want to explore, and you don’t really know where to begin, here are some ideas to get you started.

What makes a good story?

  • It has to be something that you want told.
  • It needs to resonate with your audience.
  • It is memorable.

Why are stories effective?

We have a limit to how much information we can retain at any given time, but stories aid retention and recollection because they draw on senses and emotions. Audiences tend to be more open to and less sceptical towards them. Best of all, stories are downright interesting.

What to share?

What is the core message? Is it informational, interactional or transformational? What do you want the audience to do, or how do you want them to behave or feel as a result, if anything? This is your anchor point. Everything will hinge on it.

  • Who is the audience?

Take the time to understand the demographic and psychographic profile of your audience. This includes the similarities and differences in their diversity.

Does the audience trust you? Dig deep and be brave as you consider that question. In a professional setting, will the audience be ready to settle in and hang off every word? Or, will their attention wane.

  • What rhetorical appeal will you use?

The rhetorical devices, or modes of persuasion, will largely depend on your audience. Will it pivot on the credibility of the character involved (ethos), contain a logical proof or rational argument (logos) or appeal to emotion (pathos). You don’t have to focus on only one rhetorical appeal, you could use a combination to better highlight your core message.

  • What kind of story will you share?

There are many story types you can draw on, stories about discovery, pursuit or transformation can be compelling. They can be slow-moving or like a rollercoaster ride. Ultimately, it will depend on your core message, what will resonate with your audience and your connection to it.

Let me show you what I mean.

If you want to share a story of discovery about a research development but you have little do with research, or it is not your field or area of expertise, then what ‘business’ do you have sharing on the topic. You don’t have to be the researcher, or the expert; but, there should be a nexus between you as the storyteller, the kind of story you are sharing and the core message (or the anchor point).

  • Where will you share the story?

Will you deliver it orally as part of a presentation, a video, or in written format such as a blog, article or in a report. How much time will you have with your audience?

If it’s orally, consider how you will introduce it. An opening line indicates to your audience that something different is about to happen. That can be daunting if you don’t consider storytelling your strength.

An opening line can be as simple as:

  • “Allow me share something with you that is meaningful (relevant) to what I’m talking to you about today...”
  • “Let me share a time when …”
  • “I’d like to share something with you about the impact this had on me/the business/individual/group/organisation…”

Notice how these examples seek a permission from the audience? They’re not an announcement, so it takes the pressure off you to deliver an epic. And, it’s no longer just you, but you are seeking engagement and involvement with your audience.

How to tell a story in five steps.

When developing and sharing a story, these are some elements to help you get started.

1. Who’s involved?

Who is the protagonist (hero) and who is the antagonist (rival) and is anyone else involved. Talk about them.

2. Where is the story taking place and when?

What is the timing, where is it? If you have time, give some context about the era and the societal factors in which it occurs.

3. What is taking place?

Is it an event, a situation, a crisis? Consider the chronological order and the idea of cause and effect.

4. What is the problem?

What are the pivotal moments, the highs and the lows, the climax. Where is the disruption? This is what's interesting.

5. What is the resolution?

How does it conclude, or does it? Where do people end up? The reality may be that the story is to be continued.

We are all storytellers.

Start with something uncomplicated and allow yourself to make mistakes along the way. Don’t let fear stop you, and don’t try to appeal to everyone. Be selective about who you will make your plea to.

Like anything, if you want to use storytelling in your business, it takes learning and practice. Sounds like everything else in business, and in life, doesn’t it?

Related sources:

The power of storytelling in public relations: Introducing the 20 master plots.

The Effectiveness of Social Media Storytelling in Strategic Innovation Communication: Narrative Form Matters.

Transformative stories: A framework for crafting stories for social impact organizations.

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