The Power of the Pen: Storytelling Tactics to Enhance Your Short Stories
We are all naturally born storytellers. Magnificent, masterful, playful & powerful communication is what sets us apart from all other species, and with that comes great responsibility. Keep reading and you will find all of the story telling tactics to help you change the world, one short story at a time.
Two years ago a good friend of mine, Laura, who lives in San Francisco and works in the world of advertising & marketing, told me about her regular morning commute into the office. On a typical day Laura would leave her apartment with her oversized metallic coffee flask in hand, and embark on a short 20 minute walk through the busy part of town and would often pick up a morning newspaper on the way, reading whilst walking. She would pass many regulars on route and made a point of highlighting the number of homeless people she would come to know, on occasion she would hand over some change and once a week she would buy a round of coffees, she even knew some people by name. On a busy Friday morning she passed by an old blind man who was sitting on a busy street corner in the rush-hour begging for money. On a cardboard sign, next to an empty tin cup, he had written: ‘Blind – Please help’.
No-one was giving him any money.
As Laura approached she saw the blind man with his sign and empty cup, and also saw the many people passing by completely unmoved, let alone stopping to give money.
Being a master of communication and specialising in marketing, Laura took a thick marker-pen from her handbag, turned the cardboard sheet back-to-front, and re-wrote the sign, before continuing her morning commute.
Immediately, people began putting money into the blue tin cup and after a while, the cup was overflowing with change and even notes. (Yes there is an abundance of wealth too in San Francisco too!).
The next morning when Laura passed by once more, the blind man recognised her voice and had tears of joy in his eyes, filled with gratefulness he asked what the sign now said.
“It says,” said Laura, ” ‘It’s a beautiful day. You can see it. I cannot.‘
Genius, How to tell an short story in one short sentence! This simple shift in communication drastically changed each person’s perception by telling a different story, one that made them think about how grateful they should be. The newly written sign was simply asking people to open their eyes. The reality is, stories change our own lives on a daily basis and therefore the stories we tell ourselves and to others are of great significance.
Brands know all about the power of storytelling tactics, think about Nike & Apple, both masterful storytellers. Nike the name is the Greek Goddess of victory which embodies every story they tell, even using influencers such as Michael Jordan to portray their message. Apple has similar strategies and have managed to keep their stories simple & beautiful, just like their products.
Can stories really change the world? If you were to think of the most powerful story ever to be told, what would it be? You might think of famous novels such as Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice or even Charles Dickens Great expectations. Maybe even a modern classic in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter.
The Bible is arguably one of the greatest adult short stories ever to be told. It is essentially a collection of short stories, each one interpreted differently and underpinned with deep meaningful metaphors designed to capture our spirit and imagination. The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories. The Bible has shaped our western civilisation for millennia and continues to play an extremely important role in all aspects of our lives regardless of any religious affiliation. We all remember the story of David and Goliath where King David was considered to be a man after God’s own heart and is most famous for defeating the giant Goliath when he was only a shepherd boy. The moral of this story is that regardless of our appearance or circumstances, the size of one’s heart and spirit is more important than one’s stature and that fancy armour is not always needed to defeat enemies or overcome challenges. This very idea is embedded within our society today and our love of the underdog winning has never been more relevant in today’s world.
Yes, short stories really can and do change the world. Dave Lieber is a national-award-winning Watchdog newspaper columnist for The Dallas Morning News, a prize-winning author and storytelling expert. Listen to his take on the power of stories HERE.
Being able to communicate both verbally and in writing is all we really have and we are all telling stories on a daily basis whether we like it or not and some of our stories are more compelling than others. Some of our stories inspire the people close to us, and the best of those stories spread like wildfires. That is the magic of good stories, once told they have an uncanny ability of time travelling. However some of our stories, often the ones we tell unconsciously, serve for the worst; fear, anxiety, negativity and pessimism.
Andrea Gibbs, co-creator of Barefaced Stories and a core comedian in The Big HOO-HAA! Talks HERE about her interest in the power of storytelling (the good and the bad) and how she’s seen it reduce the stigma around mental illness.
International speaker David JP Phillips also gives a fascinating as to the science of good story telling. This is worth a watch.
Which stories are you known for?
You might think you are a terrible storyteller by nature. This is simply not true. You might be out of practice or lack storytelling tactics however we are all naturally born storytellers; Magnificent, masterful, playful & powerful communication is what sets us apart from all other species, and with that comes great responsibility. Storytelling can change your life and the lives of people all around the world, there should be no doubt of that.
Below you will find all of the tools to help you change the world, one adult short story at a time…
What does a good story consist of?
- A relatable character/’s Think about the best Hollywood movies, they always have a hero and villain. Make yours relatable to your audience
- A relevant challenge It is battle time! When good meets evil, who will prevail is of the utmost importance.
- A worthy lesson After demonstrating an honest struggle, how did end and what should we takeaway
It can be that simple. Short, simple & concise stories are often just as powerful when told in the right way. To really build out a more detailed and impactful story, the below structure should always be followed without exception.
- Hook. Why should somebody listen to your story?
- Context. When and where did it take place? Who is the main character? Challenge.
- What was the problem or opportunity they ran into? Conflict. What did they do about it?
- Resolution. How did it turn out in the end?
- Lesson. What can we learn from it?
- Action. What should your listeners do now?
In our modern society stories have been replaced by big data and structure….stories are not logical and do not follow a straight line, if they did we simply would not read them. Twist’s turns, trials and tribulations are what keep us hooked.
When should stories be told?
Stories can and should be intentional and productive. Creating a list of valuable and authentic stories that mean something to you is a sure way to become an impactful storyteller. Intentional stories can be told whenever there is a need to deliver an important message, a need to inspire, or simply to make another soul smile.
Storytellers are often great leaders as they have the ability to inspire action.
How to find or create a compelling story?
- Search your own past and present Often we have our own unique and relatable stories
- Host story circles and go on story hunts Find the best stories from other people
- Write your own meaningful stories For all of the right reasons and good intentions, create your own meaningful stories using the above structure
Create an index of your best stories and associate them with your desired outcomes
Everyday we communicate, how effectively we communicate and the impact we have on others is another question. Many of us are accustomed to using powerpoint to tell stories in our daily lives which has been around for a brief 30 years, although we have been telling adult short stories for over 100,000 years using our uncanny ability to connect our thoughts & emotions…which do you think is more effective?
Love & Blessings…hygëia