What is a Story?
Stories are about change, how something or someone has changed as a result of something that comes into their lives. It is about people, regular people and extraordinary people. Often, though, telling a good story in a good way can be challenging- what to include, what tone to take and what you want your readers to get out of it.
Below are some guidelines that can help you construct a strong story that people will actually want to read.
The critical aspect of the story is that involves some kind of change, some kind of dynamic, some kind of action.
It is also about the reader– how and why should your story affect the reader? How does the change, the event or the location impact people?
Create Your Story
Answer a few questions about the story you plan- about the content, about what makes it interesting to both your people, your members and supporters, as well as others who may not be yet connected to you. What about your story would connect with them?
- What’s so unusual about what you do?
- Why is there a need for your organization and work?
- How many people are affected by your issue or cause?
- Are there others out there who might benefit from knowing about you that don’t yet?
- Why is this happening – are there no other programs like yours? If there are, what distinguishes you from them?
- What happens if someone needs your services ?
As you look at these questions, jot down a couple of words or phrases for each one. Then go back and look at what you have to begin to build your story.
Understand the Elements of a Good Story
Begin to build it by setting the stage with the 5 W’s:
At the end, you can include statistics to illustrate the need for your nonprofit in society today to fill out your narrative.
- Who are your characters?
- Where are they?
- What happened?
- When did this happen?
- Why did this happen?
Next: Build on the ‘What Happened’
Good stories are about something that changes- for good or for bad. There needs to be a dynamic that shows movement from one state to another, one situation to another- something has to happen to be interesting.
- What change came about?
- How did it come about?
- Who made it happen?
- How long did it take?
- Is there an ending?
Cinderella, for instance
- Change that came about: from abused scullery maid to princess.
- How did it come about: a chance meeting at a party Cinderella never expected to attend.
- Who made it happen: Cinderella, for being such a good person, and her Fairy Godmother who has magic powers to help her.
- How long did it take: Cinderella had to do a lot of cleaning before the Ball, and had to go back to it until the Prince found her with the glass slipper.
- Is there an ending: in this case, yes, a happy one.
What is the story, or stories, of your organization and mission?
Consider the story of what inspired your founder to start your organization. What compelled them to take the time, the effort and the leap of faith necessary to found the organization?
What is a great success story one of your members, clients or constituents has had?
Or, what is a poor outcome for someone that could not access your services?
How does it end, how will it end, how do you want it to end?
How could that ending have been different?
3 Elements of Great Storytelling
- Set the scene: describe for the reader the sights, sounds, even the smells where the story takes place. Those details add color and depth to the action of your story, take your reader to the scene.
- Avoid technical jargon, official or stiff wording, tell the story as if someone is sitting across from you at a table. Be conversational and accessible, don’t hide behind formal terms and phrasing.
- Connect through emotion. Descriptions are great, and they set the stage for the emotional connection you want to make. Now take the next step and discuss how your characters feel:
- Is someone scared?
Step Back for a Minute- Why would anyone read this?
While your story may be fascinating to you and yours, what about it could be interesting to anyone else? Why would someone not connected to your cause be interested?
There are certain universal experiences that we all share: how can you connect those to your story?
Think about the subtext, the underlying message you want to convey:
- Is it hope, is it accomplishment, is it urgency?
- What is it you want your reader to walk away from your story with?
- If they were going to tell anyone else about what they learned about you, what would you want them to say?
You’ve got 10 seconds to make a first, and lasting, good impression
There is way too much stuff for us all to read. It’s a battle for your eyeballs and attention. Your own experience will tell you that. Of the deluge of stuff that shows up in your inbox and mailbox, how do you select what to read and what to not even open?
For me, if the subject line or first sentence grabs me, I will stick around to see what’s next. But if either of those 2 things don’t grab me, it is unlikely I will ever look at it.
- Once upon a time….
- It was a dark and stormy night….
- In a land far away and long ago…..
It pays to take the time to create a strong entrance to your story. All the other good stuff you might want to talk about will never see daylight unless your reader is intrigued enough to keep reading.
Think about what words will leap off the page (or screen) yelling ‘Read Me!’ What makes you stop and read something?
What is your goal with this story?
Start at the end, with what you want the story to accomplish for you. Keep that in mind as you build the elements of your story. This is the real bottom line- there is no reason to even begin if you are not clear about the goal and purpose of your storytelling. Think about what you want, then build your story around that goal.
Need some help? We can help you figure out what story you want, and need, to tell;
and how to do it well.
Call today!!! 310 828 6979