A wonderful client has experienced many events in her life. In fact, she wrote a personal memoir and she's learning from me how to speak about it in a way that inspires others to read it.
Our work reminds me that stories are more than reports of events. Stories are works of art that capture the imagination and tap into the feelings of audiences. Here are the 5 tips I gave this client and that you can use to craft stories from the events of your life.
1) A story requires 5 elements: the hero or main character; the crisis; the obstacles to overcoming the crisis; the steps the hero takes to deal with the obstacles; and the resolution.
2) A well-crafted story sequences these elements in a way that causes the audience to pay the most attention. You might actually start with the end, if you can create mystery and curiosity. You could open with the hero in mid-action as he/she works to overcome the obstacles. You could begin with the crisis and then reveal the hero and the rest.
3) Language is essential for depth and texture of the story. Dig deeply for your most evocative language, for the descriptions that conjure images and emotions. Avoid words that have become cliches, such as 'ginormous' or 'horrific'. Savor each word as you write it and speak it.
4) Begin simply with a list of your 5 elements. Craft language for each element. What words convey the inner qualities and thoughts of the hero? How do you transport the audience to the crisis and help them appreciate the gravity or challenges of the obstacles? Will any brief dialogue add to the story? Complete each element before assembling the story.
5) Arrange the elements in various combinations and practice telling the story out loud. Hear how it sounds in each version. Where can you adjust to maximize impact? Are there vocal qualities (louder, softer, faster, slower, pauses) that will add meaning and impact? As the artist, you have many options and you should try them all before settling on one combination.
Practices are key to effective storytelling. No one--and I mean no one--ever tells a story off the cuff as well as they would if they practiced. My rule of thumb for practices is 10 times. Practice it, reflect, adjust. Practice, reflect, adjust. After about the 5th time you shouldn't be making any more adjustments. Then keep practicing until you're fluid and very present in the moment.
What's the point of stories? I always say "make your stories their stories" which means that the audience learns something about themselves from your stories. How can they overcome the obstacles and get the outcomes? Is there a moral? What is the simple lesson they'll remmeber for years?
One of my favorites is "You're free to go" which was the last line of a story. The storyteller then turned to the audience and asked us to always remember "You're free to go." The whole story had been about his own unique experience and then, with these simple words, he made his story our story.
Pick an event or experience from your life. Craft it into a story. Practice well and tell it often. People will appreciate your wisdom as they improve their own lives.