I don’t have a story to tell. How do I put together a story when I am not a Steven Spielberg? There is nothing about me that is interesting enough to build a story on.
Just to encourage you, there are definitely loads of stories around you. The only issue is that most of the time we are thinking they have to be stories like The Matrix. Actually, in the “little” things which happen around you, there is already a story. So how do you recognize the stories?
Let us start by examining the components of a story. Every story has characters, a setting and a plot.
I would like to introduce you to the main character in your story – rise up and take a bow. This is one which we sometimes fail to realize but this particular story has you as the lead character and your every day is packed full of interesting subtexts which can be explored.
Try this one out for size –
You drove to work this morning.
This is a single sentence informing us of how you got to work. However, this single sentence can be developed to bring out the full structure of a story. This seemingly mundane activity is richly laden with the components of a great story if you take the time to look deep enough. Let’s look at the character(s).
The first person we encounter in this is none other than you. You probably stepped into the vehicle and drove it to work. On the road, there will be other cars with (hopefully) people in them. These other characters in the story all have a part to play, either in making your drive more pleasant or let’s just say less pleasant. To take this one step further, one of the other characters (driving a red Ford) speeds past you and cuts in directly in front of you causing you to dramatically apply the brakes.
As long as you are here on planet earth, your story already has a setting. But even if you have joined the dearly departed, imagine what a great story that will make. For now, let us go with the assumption that you are still here with us. Therefore, we can place your story in a specific setting.
Let us build on the example of your drive to work –
You were driving on the highway, specifically the I-95 when the red Ford cut you off. But even before that, you had run into traffic merging onto the highway from Hudson heights. After slowly inching your way across the George Washington Bridge, the traffic was easing off after the New Jersey Turnpike.
The setting is key since this helps the audience place the entire story. It can also help you connect with them since they can relate to this setting.
The plot of your story is essentially what happened during the course of it. Taking the time to put in details help people to visualize your story and live it with you.
In the example of your trip to work, I have specifically noted that the other character in this story (the arch villain, if you like) is driving in a red Ford.
Immediately, he cut you off, you got irritated and screamed at him (surprise that he didn’t seem to hear you). You decided to follow him and retaliate by cutting him off. However, as you started to accelerate, a voice reminded you that there is an important meeting with the new boss and you shouldn’t be late. Ignoring him, you continued on your way. Karma always finds a way, right? 2 miles further down the road, you saw that he had been pulled over by the police and couldn’t stop laughing in the car. As you got into the office, whistling and smiling at everyone, you met up with the new boss who called you into his office just before the meeting. In so many words, he tells you that your role is key to the organization which he wants to build and offers you a raise.
Now, this isn’t The Matrix or a Spielberg, yet it contains all the aspects of a good story and is simply what you experienced this morning while driving to work and in the office. By personalizing the story or presentation, you not only make it human but also grab and hold the attention of your audience.