A good story has a greater chance of engaging the audience and has certain common elements used to the story-teller’s advantage. Here are a few of those common elements:
1) A Great Hook – Begins with an opening that grabs the reader or listener’s attention to the conflict at the heart of the story and its eventual resolution. It is more than mere description.
2) Exposition – Imagine a narration of a TV documentary on the History of the Flight Attendant Uniforms. The narrator appears before the camera telling the story of the evolution of the Style in the Aisle, and in that light-hearted but all-about-business tone takes us on a journey down memory lane:
“If the airline industry had a baby book, 1930 would surely be an important page. As an infant industry, airlines and passengers were taking their first steps together. During that particular year, one of those steps was adding flight attendants to the crew…”
That is showing and not telling.
In contrast, imagine the same program but this time as a display of different slides. For example slides of flight attendants getting on the plane, on the job and at the negotiation table with union representatives and management.
Those are Scenes. In story telling anecdotes are used to create scenes. They describe an event or series of events experienced or put into motion by a character.
For example, telling us about his experience as a little boy who spent hours poring over the latest edition of Car and Driver Magazine and dreaming of becoming one of the best automobile engineers. This young boy’s dream never materialized because his parents insisted he forgo his dreams and pursue a more lucrative professional career.
Guess what? Many years later, the then young boy and now father got the opportunity to build a car from scratch and this time with his sons.
He recalls the excitement radiating from the eyes of the young boys as they worked tirelessly on their “boys buggy” as they fondly referred to it. For the father, that remains one of the most rewarding and priceless experiences of his life. More important were the lessons learned – Building relationships by spending time with the people we care for.
“If a story is not about the hearer he [or she] will not listen . . . A great lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting–only the deeply personal and familiar.”
An Anecdote does have a powerful draw but in combination with an analogy, right there is a winner. Analogies help in making connections with the audience. For example, consider the analogy between personal finance and a football game. A football game comprises – offense, defense and special teams. To dominate is to win all three phases of the game. Likewise to dominate the personal finance game, one has to master income, spending and investing.
Income which is money earned can be compared to the offense position and spending the defense, where there is a need to defend against impulsive spending. Investing can be compared to the special teams wherein you touch your investments infrequently. Investments also have the potential to bring in a big play that can make a big difference in your overall financial picture (What Football Teaches us About Personal Finance).
In conclusion, breathe life into the characters, add some humor and metaphor(s) and wrap it all up with a meaningful resolution. The resolution does not have to be anything spectacular but one that resolves any conflicts (Cannon Insights).
Just a few good elements in the mixing bowl and you are on your jolly way to telling an even better story, your story and that’s a winner any day!