I believe we can use “story” in all sorts of wonderful ways to understand our own journey and to tell a compelling story to customers. But more than understanding ourselves or marketing to customers, we can change our story and change ourselves. But first, what are the elements of a good story? This is what I get into depth about in the OS YOU course. It’s helpful to have some templates, some guideposts along the way to developing stories that can change us. Here’s just a little bit of an insight…
There are a lot of story templates that over the ages have resonated with people and have become the “go-to” format for novelists and screenwriters. The Hero’s Journey is just one of them. There are what’s called “beat sheets” that are story structures used by screenwriters to frame their ideas into a format that we all know and love. Yet screenwriters and filmmakers can still keep us on the edge of our seat with new stories even though the underlying structure is as old as the hills. We expect and want the tension and the resolution we find in these story arcs. Just like music – we are satisfied with the complexity and richness of the sounds and chord progressions but the music still has to follow certain rules and resolve in certain ways for it to be satisfying to us (unless the purpose of the music is to bring unresolved tension – as it is used in film music sometimes). And yes, I know there are the avant-garde films, music and novels that do not follow any traditional pattern and can be vexing and disturbing or shocking. But we are focused here on establishing a good sense of self and how we can use story to help our business and customers – so we will leave the avant-garde to the artists.
In the hero’s journey there is a call to an adventure, out from the known and into the unknown. Along the way as the hero ventures into the unknown there is a helper or mentor who acts as a guide who will give wisdom as the hero faces challenges. Eventually there is a critical point where the hero overcomes the impossible and is transformed and there is an atonement, a making amends or reconciliation or a redemption of some kind as the hero returns to the known world – forever transformed. Now all this sounds terribly dramatic, and in mythology and the movies it is! But in our lives, more often than not it’s not as dramatic as a Hollywood blockbuster, but we can use the same sort of framework for many situations we find ourselves in to see the beautiful story arc that ends in transformation and growth, despite (or because of) the challenges we are going through. That positive spin on our circumstances can be immensely powerful.
We can also think of our story in 3 acts – this is a classic way of framing a story. Here’s what it looks like…
- Act One: The set up – you introduce yourself and the difficulty or conflict that facing you. This first part is about filling in the details as to what the world is like for you, what are the challenges, and what’s leading you or forcing you into the thing that’s going to change you.
- Act Two: This is the all about the conflict, the impossible challenge, the stakes, the obstacles and the goals that are before you. This act culminates in a crisis point that is either going to defeat you or transform you – the “dark night of the soul” experience.
- Act Three: This is the breaking through to victory, the overcoming, the conquering of whatever it was that could have ended you. This is about the transformation that results and the redemption of things lost.
If you want to really go into depth with a template to frame your story (or later the story of your business and products – we will get to that) then you can’t go past Blake Snyder’s “Save The Cat!” http://www.savethecat.com/ it’s a template and way of analysing and framing stories for screenwriters, but as marketing people with a story to tell it’s also very insightful and useful. You will not only find his template very useful, but there are stacks of examples of screenplays that follow this formula – http://www.savethecat.com/category/beat-sheets . Now we all know films can be very engaging and emotionally so – well we can learn a thing or two from screenwriters for our own stories and communicating compelling narratives to potential customers.
But you need not start studying to become a screenwriter! We can just use the most basic story arc and see if you can frame your story in 3 acts – set up – conflict – overcoming/transformation. And just for fun here’s a video looking at the same concept that all stories basically have the same format (this video talks about yet another way to frame story):
“All life, including the human mind, and the communities we create, marches to the same specific beat. If the story marches to this beat, it will resonate. It will send and audience’s ego on a brief trip to the unconscious and back. The audience has an instinctive taste for that and they’re going to say ‘yum’.”