The making of a good story

by Steve Brock on March 13, 2013

Stories from the classicsIf I had a dollar for every time over the last five or so years I’ve heard someone talk or write about the importance of stories, I’d have enough money to last me the rest of my life. Assuming I died by next Tuesday.

Seriously, maybe because I’m in marketing and branding I hear it more than most, but my guess is that you too have heard it over and over again as well. Life is a story. We’re all part of God’s bigger story. Find your story. Live a better story. Tell your life as a story.

I’m as guilty as the next story proponent because part of what I do for work is to help organizations to know their story and tell it consistently and compellingly. When they do, it makes a huge difference in their ability to attract, inspire and retain customers, donors and other constituents. We point to organizations like charity:water, because they communicate well (even without capital letters), both in words and in images (still and video). They have a simplified message and they stick to it. They know their story and they are good at sharing it…and inviting others to join in it.

I work with clients of all sizes and while many of them talk about the power of storytelling, few of them do it well. Why? Several reasons.

First, it’s hard. Good storytellers make it look easy, but that’s what all great artists do.

Second, it takes practice (and thus relates to the first point).

Third, – I think the biggest reason – is that most of us don’t know how. I count myself in that crowd. I can teach others, but I’m only starting to learn myself how to tell a better story. So let me impart a portion of what I share with clients and over the next several entries here on The Meaningful Traveler, we’ll explore how to apply these principles of storytelling to travel.

The goal is not just to make you better at talking about your trips, but also to improve the actual experience on your trips.

Now I recognize that a good story is a lot like art – you can’t define it but you know it when you see it (or in this case, read or hear it). If there were a perfect formula for storytelling, it wouldn’t last long. It’s like looking for a perfect church: Once you find it and join, it’s no longer perfect. If everyone used the same story-telling formula, it wouldn’t be long before you’d be reaching for the remote or hitting your back button.

However, certain time-tested principles do apply. We’ll explore a few simple ones next time. (Because there are numerous books on the subject, we’ll just be glancing over the surface here). But let me leave you with a simple definition I once read (and forgive me for forgetting the source).

A story consists of a protagonist (usually a person, but not always) overcoming (or at least striving against) an obstacle to achieve a goal.

Think about it: a person overcoming an obstacle to achieve a goal. Simple, yes? Then come back next time and we’ll unpack how this applies to travel.

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