In this blog post we explore how to structure a story and examine what makes a compelling story.
The word narrative derives from the Latin word “to tell”. A story is a report of connected events presented in a written word. We are all storytellers by nature. Telling stories is an integral part of being a human. It is perhaps the best way for us to belong, pass information and influence others. That is also the reason why we are naturally drawn to stories. Storytelling is the building block of communication. We tell stories to inspire others, to explain and simplify our message and to share information. Great storytelling is also a way to gain social influence.
Building blocks of a story
A year ago I attended a filmmaking course in London in MET Film School. We started our course by forming small groups of three and sharing a story from our own life. The story could be about anything; a recent event, something funny or sad. In the the exercise one person shared her or his story to another person while the third person in the group was wearing headphones so that she or he could not hear what was said. We all took terms to listen and to share our stories. Each one of us told our own story and the story of one other members of the group.
This exercise had two purposes. First of all it illustrated that we all have a story to tell and helped us to figure out how to structure a story. Secondly it showed us what the listener took away from our story, what they remembered. As the stories were passed on the funny, emotional, scandalous or surprising elements of our stories got remembered and exaggerated. For example in my story, the slightly overweight cat which was mentioned as a side comment became the main focus of the story. The exercise helped us form our stories by learning what was interesting for the listener and what caught their imagination.
Backstory gives the vision it´s meaning
You probably already know the backstories of your favorite storytellers. Often these great women and men have accomplished amazing things and struggled along the way. But they have all learned to use adversity in their advantage. Those powerful experiences have become part of their narrative they now share when communicating, inspiring and spreading their message. Their struggles give their mission the backbone which anchor the audience to listen, understand and believe in their heroes through a compelling story.