The art of storytelling. A skill set that has solidified civilizations as lasting empires and has separated boardroom executives from the rest of the pack. Throughout human history, story telling has been the common denominator, keeping our stories and memories intact.
We are all very familiar with individuals in our lives who can captivate the masses, or, simply our attention alone for an extended period of time. We become engrossed with every minute detail which surrounds the characters or events in their story. We even find ourselves engaging with the storyteller, begging to know what happens next as our minds eagerly jumps to its own conclusions. We cannot help it. We love a good story.
Ever since I was a child, I was enthralled by stories. Whether it be my parents reading and using interesting voices to keep me engaged in a children’s book, or sitting around a campfire with family and friends, sharing horror stories meant to spook me (which they totally didn’t! Well, maybe just a little)...I sought out great stories and great storytellers.
But what makes a story great? What separates a story worth remembering from the forgettable rest? I strongly believed that it was solely up to the teller to engross the audience and keep them on the edge of their seats. However, after reading the book Stories That Stick by Kindra Hall, I realized that there is much more to the art of storytelling than just the teller.
In Stories That Stick, Hall illustrates - contrary to my previous belief - that it is in fact the components of a story that make a great story great. She unveils her process, which anyone, yes even those deemed poor storytellers (let's be honest, we all know at least one), can become successful at crafting and ultimately telling profound, memorable stories. She lays out the ingredients for a great story – which she calls...
The Four Components of a Great Story:
1. Identifiable Characters
2. Authentic Emotion
3. A Significant Moment
4. Specific Details
Along with these components, each great story must adhere to a sequence, following the characters as they progress through their “Normal,” experience an “Explosion,” which then leads them into their “New Normal”. The explosion is the climax of the story, where the audience - and, more importantly to Hall - the character, experiences their significant moment, leading them along in their journey, marking the transition from their "Normal" to their "New Normal". This is the exciting part of the story, often accompanied by a build up giving us the sense that something major is about to happen, then BOOM! It hits us as our eyes widen and we unconsciously begin to lean forward, paying attention to each word as if they were instructions to decode a ticking time bomb. To Hall, these components and this progression comprise the recipe of a great story. While she frames the ability to compose eloquent stories within a business lens, there is plenty of wiggle room to model this sequence in any part of your life.
I’ll be honest. I can be a drifter when I read – sorry, Kindra! But, after finishing Stories That Stick, I began to reflect on the great storytellers that I know, racking my brain with what separated them from the rest of the pack. What I now realized is that not all of them possessed charisma, nor this effervescent charm which makes us lean in as they tell a story. It was, in fact, the story itself.
All stories have the ability to become great. Hall shares various practices, principles, and guidelines, all of which allow you to turn a seemingly monotonous speech into a grand story that captivates any and all listeners. Per her recommendation, simply start by writing down as many stories/happenings/events of your life that you can think of on paper. From there, begin to work in the Four Components and the Normal-Explosion-New Normal sequence and witness the magic of a great story beginning to unfold. Once you have your story crafted, begin to practice and soon, you too, will be thought of as a great storyteller among your colleagues, friends, and family members!
Storytelling is incredible – a true art form which, when done well, can separate you from the pack. Whether you use storytelling for advancing your career, keeping old memories, recipes, and traditions alive in your family, or simply in hopes of furthering your skill set (or lack thereof), I highly recommend Stories That Stick.
“Culture is a collection of stories that align and inspire.” With the amount of distractions and noise in the world, storytelling is just as important now as it has ever been – if not more so. To preserve and advance our culture, we need to preach unity, invoke kindness, and amplify all voices, and there is no better way to do so than by telling a great story.
Now, who wants to start inspiring with me?