Stories are a foundational part of our culture. We use stories to communicate, to remember things, to build our identity, learn, teach, entertain and inspire.
Although it is natural for us to tell stories, creating likable and shareable ones requires a special skill.
You can hone this skill and profit from it daily. Colleagues will hang on your lips during your presentations, your blog subscriptions will rise and your marketing will flourish. Even at home nowadays, with the Corona lockdown, this skill is indispensable. Why not impress your children with it and make homeschooling an exciting adventure.
Let’s get started with the basics.
The basic story structure
I will let the famous and highly prolific American writer Kurt Vonnegut explain the structure of a story.
To summarize, there are five basic elements:
- Exposition – description of the basic context and situation: who, what, when and where.
- Inciting incident – Objective or something needs to happen to push the story forward. A protagonist with a certain desire or forces that are for or against the protagonist’s goal.
- Rising action – a conflict that impedes the protagonist from achieving their goal.
- Climax – we see if the goal is achieved or not
- Resolution – The result, what this all means in the end, the lesson learned
Let’s find these elements in the popular fable “The Fox and the Crow” credited to Aesop, a storyteller believed to have lived in ancient Greece.
Exposition: A Fox once saw a Crow fly off with a piece of cheese in its beak and settle on a branch of a tree.
Inciting incident: “That’s for me, as I am a Fox,” said Master Reynard, and he walked up to the foot of the tree.
Rising action: “Good day, Mistress Crow,” he cried. “How well you are looking today: how glossy your feathers; how bright your eye. I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds, just as your figure does; let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of Birds.”
Climax: The Crow lifted up her head and began to caw her best, but the moment she opened her mouth the piece of cheese fell to the ground, only to be snapped up by Master Fox.
Resolution: “That will do,” said he. “That was all I wanted. In exchange for your cheese, I will give you a piece of advice for the future: “Do not trust flatterers.”
Knowing how to build authentic, shareable stories is paramount if you are in the marketing business. The stories in marketing are specific. They are usually about:
- the character of the brand
- the features and benefits of the product
- the value of the service
To tell a marketing story respecting the above basic structure use the two worlds technique:
- Describe the world that is (lacking something)
- Describe the world that could be (the change)
- Place your product/service right between these 2 worlds
Tell the world that is from the consumer’s perspective, so that he can feel that something is missing.
There is a great course on Linkedin if you want to dive deeper into this topic:
A good story never makes someone feel in a certain way, but rather pulls out of them something they already feel. A good story adds value. Wouldn’t it be great to master this skill?