More than any of the words you say in your presentation, your audience will remember what they “see” in their minds through the stories you tell. The art of storytelling is essential to effective public speaking. Fortunately, even if you are not a natural storyteller, the ability to tell an engaging story can be learned. At the heart of every great story is a strong storyline. My friend, speaker and storytelling expert, Craig Harrison explains the importance of a strong storyline and shares examples to help you develop your own stories:
What’s Your Storyline?
by Craig Harrison
Everyone loves a good story! But what makes a good story? A great story starts with an interesting storyline. A storyline is the narrative thread that runs throughout your story. It holds everything together and leads your listener through to the end. Usually your storyline can be summarized by a single sentence that describes the central plot of your story (or drama, book, play, or film).
Storylines are most compelling when they go somewhere. We love stories that are transformative – where one or more of the central characters are experience a transformation, and therefore the reader or listener does too! We love stories that defy the odds, that have twists and surprises resulting in triumph, justice, breakthroughs, or epiphanies. Think about your favorite stories. Don’t they fit this profile?
As you craft your next story, what storyline will you mimic or model yours after? Better yet, is it original? Here are some familiar, and less familiar, storylines to help you begin to think about the many possibilities:
We love stories…
- Of the triumph of good over evil.
- Of characters overcoming long odds to achieve their goals
- Of underdogs winning contests
- Of princes who marry the princess (and vice versa).
- That go from ‘rags to riches’
- Of the return of the native (homecomings)
- Of strangers in a strange land
- Of discovery
- Of self-discovery
- Of strange bedfellows
- Of commoners doing extraordinary things
- Of role reversals
Is your storyline compelling, easy to follow, and ideally one that resonates with the listener? Now, can you summarize it in one sentence?
Pitch Perfect Storylines
When film and television writers meet with industry executives to pitch a new project, they’ve only got a sentence or two to paint a vivid and persuasive picture. Vince Gilligan, who created the TV series Breaking Bad, described his show about a high school teacher who broke bad as “Mr. Chips becomes Scarface.” That’s an evocative storyline! (For more on compelling storylines and pitch meetings read Peter Guber’s book Tell to Win.)
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Bringing it back to stories we’re familiar with, Illinois-based storyteller Linda Gorham recently distilled a few well-known children’s fairy tales into six line descriptions. Can you recognize each story from its storyline?
- Ashen Cindy trades cottage for castle.
- Pigs capture wolf while feigning abandonment.
- Rumpelstiltskin catches ‘attitude’ when name revealed.
- Little Red evades big bad wolf.
It’s your turn. Can you similarly synopsize your speech or story?
Lining up your storyline is a key to successfully spinning your next story. What’s your storyline?
Professional speaker Craig Harrison, DTM is past District Governor of 120 plus Toastmaster clubs in coastal Northern California, past president of NSA Northern California Chapter, and founder and current dean of NSA Northern California Chapter’s Pro-Track Speakers Academy. He founded Expressions of Excellence!™ to provide sales and service solutions through speaking. Visit: www.ExpressionsOfExcellence.com For more articles, tools and tips for speakers visit: www.SpeakAndLeadWithConfidence.com.
Thank you Craig!
“The Importance of A Good Story – Fripp Virtual Training Video,” “Your Presentation – Remember the Three S’s of Dynamic Stories,” “Do You Tell Your Own Stories? Why and How to Create Original Stories,” and “Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling” are just a few of the many resources on Fripp.com to help you with your storytelling.
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