So many people have asked about my story coaching process that I decided to demonstrate it in this article. In this post you will “sit in” on my initial coaching session with a client. During the session, I will share three of my “Ten Story Crafting Secrets”. Please join me!
This particular speaker is coming for help with a story he wants to use in a keynote. I start by listening to it. After he finishes, I ask some questions to determine if his story is likely to work. Once we decide that this story will definitely enhance his talk, we outline it. I ask the speaker questions such as these:
- Where does the story begin?
- Who is the subject/main character of the story?
- What is the complication or challenge the main character is facing?
- What did the main character try and possibly fail to do to resolve it?
- How did it get resolved?
- What is the conclusion?
Then, working from this outline, the speaker tells me the story again. But I notice a problem. When he tells the story he talks about the events in the past tense. This approach to storytelling, which I call “reporting what happened”, will fall flat on stage. It’s time for me to suggest some changes.
So I share three of my secrets for crafting great stories, starting with Secret #1: Let your listeners experience the story as though it is happening right now. Storytelling, done right, activates listeners’ imaginations and transports them to the time and place where the action occurs. Then, borrowing a line from his story, I suggest that he replace “He couldn’t wait until tomorrow” with “He watches the hands on the clock crawl toward daylight.”
Next I suggest that he add, “The ticking assaults his ears.” This sentence illustratesSecret #2: Let listeners’ imaginations hear, smell, touch, and taste what’s happening. Doing this makes the story vivid and real.
Finally, I share Secret #3: Give the audience an emotional experience. Whatever the main character is feeling, the audience should feel, too. I encourage my client to let listeners feel the hero’s anguish as he tosses and turns. I suggest that he share the questions tormenting the hero. “Will she be waiting for me?” “Will she forgive me?”
Infusing the hero’s interminable wait with emotion and sharing his inner experience makes listeners care. When he does that, the audience will want the girl to be there the next morning. They will want her to forgive him.
Summary of the Coaching Session
During my initial session with this speaker we first confirmed that his story would work in his keynote. Then we focused on a common problem for storytellers: reporting the action rather than creating an experience for the audience.
To remedy this problem I offered three solutions based on my “Ten Story Crafting Secrets”.
1. Transport the audience to the time and place where the story occurs. Create an in-the-moment experience for them.
2. Tap into listeners’ senses when describing the action to make the story more vivid and real.
3. Give listeners a reason to care about the main character by sharing his/her inner experience. It is the emotional experience of a story that audiences love and remember best.
Subsequent sessions with this speaker would include a combination of teaching more story crafting techniques, such as how to incorporate drama and humor.
If you enjoyed sitting in on our session, let me know and I’ll repeat this format next time. I hope you will continue to join me!