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How to Be Memorable (Part 2): Crafting a Story

Storytelling is the foundation for effective, memorable communication. Once you've hooked your audience, you need characters, plot arcs, and resolution to make the story stick. Get-It-Done Guy explains how to tell memorable stories. 

By
Stever Robbins,
Episode #337

Characters Develop Personality and Story Arcs

Once you have characters, you need a story. As I said in Part 1 of this series on how to be memorable, my story is often just the tip. The basic elements of a story are a goal that the characters want, a conflict that keeps them from getting there, and the story is the journey around the conflict. The goal can be an external goal, like taking over the world with a zombie army and cornering the world supply of Oreo Ice Cream Cake, which coincidentally is the plot of my Zombie musical. Check it out at WorkLessAndDoMore.com. The goal can be internal, like resolving the conflict, falling in love, and so forth.

Sometimes the story gets resolved in a single episode. There's a problem putting together the Audrey 2 watering system, and it gets solved via that episode's tip. I also have a looser story arc going on about Bernice and Melvin's wedding. Originally, Bernice was planning it without letting Melvin know they were getting married. He figured it out, and the wedding is on. I just don't know when, yet, or what surprising thing will happen to create a plot twist.

Capture Humor!

When you come up with a funny joke, or a situation you might want to work into your story, write it down! Writing it down pounds it into your brain. Later, it may come back on its own, or you can browse your notes to add some humor.

Over lunch, I realized that Grandma Cuddles runs a summer camp for Brain Development and Focus to help her distractible young campers learn to concentrate. She likes to think of it as her own little "concentration camp" for short. (...Too soon?)

Find the Awesome in Real Life

I'm not very good at coming up with fictional scenarios, so I steal a lot from real life. When something in real life excites, charms, alarms, or mystifies you, use it! In my episode on measurement, I mention that I can only do 12 pull-ups, and MG does 64 every time he works out. That whole exchange was real. I was so proud of my pull-ups...and he supportively shared that he does 6 times as many as I do. Daily.

Another scene from real life: I went to Sleep No More, a retelling of Macbeth through interpretive dance. It's performed in an empty school where every room has been transformed into a scene from the play. There's a lounge with a live jazz quartet when you can go relax, if it gets too overwhelming. At one point, Macbeth pushed by me and I got covered with some of his blood (stage blood).

Afterwards, we relaxed in the jazz lounge for a drink, when a delightful young woman asked if she could share our table. The wonderful Laura Michelle Kelly turned out to be the Olivia Award-winning actress who was playing Mary Poppins on Broadway. Fun story, right? With a little massaging, it becomes: There I was, listening to a jazz quartet in an abandoned high school, covered in Macbeth's blood, when who should sit down but Mary Poppins. I have the best life!

If you're going to spice up a presentation or writing with a story, first hook the audience with a situation, complication and question, as discussed in Part 1 of this series. Bring in some characters from real life or fiction. Then create a goal for them and an obstacle they must overcome. Have them overcome the obstacle in a way that weaves in what you're presenting. Capture and use the humor you encounter in daily life, as well as everyday situations, that can be retold as something extraordinary.

Incidentally, the last time I saw Laura Michelle Kelly, she was surrounded by a whirlwind of silver sparkles as Peter Pan stepped through a window and flew her off to Neverland. And that one, I'm not making up.

I hope these tips will help you come up with some great stories for your presentations. I'd love to hear all about your successes (and failures). Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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