#104 – 3 Steps to Creating a Compelling Story
The practical steps you need to take to develop a great story and become a great storyteller.
I did a storytelling workshop last week that helped me get even clearer on what it takes to put together and share a compelling story. I’ve written before about the elements needed to craft a meaningful story, but this note is about approach. What are the actual steps you need to take to prepare and bring to life a compelling story.
It’s easy enough to share an account of incidents or events, real or imagined, but it is harder to make that account interesting and motivating to the people who you share it with. That’s where this process comes in. It’s one I’ve developed over the course of my 15+ year career and a lifetime of storytelling. It’s something I do automatically, and adjust as I learn new approaches, but it took me some time to pull out and organize in a way that I can share. I do it in every workshop, but last week it was crystallized in a way that made me ready to share with a wider audience (you, dear reader, you).
It's a three step process, one of which you only have to do once every few years and the other will come together simply enough if you’re telling stories around the same idea (a brand, a business, a career, your life, whatever). The process is just means doing three things in this order every time you go out in the world to share a story:
Establish your foundations
Define your story elements
Craft & elevate your narrative
If you do these three things each time you go out to tell a story, you will put together something quite compelling, in whatever medium you may use.
Establishing your foundations is about knowing you, the storyteller, and where you’re telling the story from. For any story it starts with having a deep understanding of your Purpose, your context (what’s going on in your life and the world around you), and how you want to position yourself in the context of your world through your story. This is also where values, mission, and vision live. This is the one you only have to do every once in awhile because mostly you know these things about yourself or your business.
The next step is getting into the fundamentals of your story—the components of a strong outline. And that’s about defining the elements of your story. I teach these elements often in webinars. They come down to knowing who your story is for, what you do for them, why your story exists, how you want to bring it to life and what impact you want to have on the world through it. Some of these will be informed by your foundations, some you will have to do a bit of thinking and organizing.
Once you’ve done those two things you can go off and tell stories of all kinds. The final step is actually doing it, which means crafting your narrative, putting together an ugly first draft, and then doing the work of elevating it. Elevation is where your story truly comes to life—that’s about including tension, showing not telling, and specific animate detail.
Try out the process and let me know if it serves you. I put a lotttttttt of links in this post. Because I don’t just want to tell you about the approach, I want you to be able to try it. To go out and craft and share amazing stories and leverage storytelling to become a better communicator. Because that’s the point of this all. At least it is for me. Sharing our stories and connecting.
It’s also why I’m taking August (also my birthday month🙌🏾) to focus on sharing with you some of the tools and approaches I use in my workshops and courses to really help you get practical about storytelling. Using some of the skills and techniques I share with my clients and students to start to tell your own stories. So this month, choose a story you want to get clear on (it could be the story of your career, your life, a business, or business idea). Whatever it is, choose it and use the approach I’m going to share over the next four weeks to really dive in to making that story great. I’m on the fence about sharing my YOUR Big Story! approach or Storytelling for Business approach so if you have a preference or area you want to focus on, let me know in the comments and I will decide based on that.
A Story Well Told
For those of you who have been asking, our Storytellers I Admire series is coming back. It’s just on hiatus over the summer as I connect with new storytellers and compile new folks to share with you. Expect a new instalment of the series in September. In the meantime, go back and read through some reader favourites if you’ve missed them. Or take a look through the full archive here. I’m so glad you’ve liked them and I’m looking forward to sharing more with you in even more new formats in September. Stay tuned for that.
Also, and of course, an incomparable storyteller released a new album last Friday (Beyoncé). I’m still listening so have no strong opinions, but it’s an important new story in the zeitgeist that the people (especially the cool kids) are talking about. So check it out and join the conversation.
Thanks for reading Adventures in Storytelling!
Subscribe for free to receive weekly insights and resources for better communication through the power of storytelling.