1. LOOK FOR TROUBLE
The starting point of all stories is a moment of disruption. A negative event throws the protagonist’s life out of balance, hooking the audience’s curiosity: How will this turn out? The protagonist’s quest to restore life’s balance by struggling against negative forces is at the heart of all compelling narratives. Therefore, fine storytellers do not avoid the negative side of life; they seek it out. They look for a instance of trouble so they can arc the telling to a positive return to balance.
2. NEVER STAR AN OVERDOG
When human beings weigh their chances for achieving their deepest desires against the almost overwhelming forces of mother nature, social institutions, and even their own subconscious selves, they feel that they are an underdog. Indeed, no one feels like an overdog. Even the most powerful, wealthy, influential people fear, deep down inside, that everything they’ve achieved could be taken from them in a sudden moment of bad luck. Therefore, for a story to engage the feeling side of its audience, it must draw them into empathy or identification with a protagonist who, like the audience, is up against very powerful forces of antagonism.
3. NEVER STAR YOURSELF
Almost without exception, all statements about one’s self are self-serving. Even when someone criticizes himself in public, there there’s always a subtext of self-congratulations: “And aren’t I a wonderfully self-aware, honest and brave person to see my flaws and confess them?” The line between autobiography and bragging is thin. Therefore, at those times in business when you must talk about your life, try to tell your story from someone else’s point of view. If you were to talk about your university years, for example, tell the story of how an inspirational professor opened your eyes to a profound truth. Make the professor a star and you a lucky bystander.
4. ASK: “WHAT DO I WANT MY LISTENER TO DO?”
The Purpose-Told Story for business is created from back to front, not front to back. Begin with the action you want to trigger in your audience: a purchase or an investment or a job well done. Once that is clear in your mind, ask yourself: “What kind of story would trigger that action in that particular person?” From there you follow your imagination back to the beginning: “What event would throw my protagonist’s life out of balance and launch a series of actions aimed at that trigger action?” With those two posts in the ground, you build a bridge of story to suspend between them.