At seven years old, I wrote my first story, a 2-page guide for my little brother to teach him the ABC. At 14 years old, I crafted my teenage fears and adventures in a journal with the dream that it may become a book one day. Then, I enjoy reading too many stories from fantastic authors.
Since I got my first computer, I keep a folder crafting ideas and fragments of my personal and work experiences. Then, two years ago, I started a compelling routine of not only drafting a few words on a journal every day but giving them purpose and sense through the art of storytelling.
At the beginning of this journey, I got stuck looking for new ideas, while other days I had a hard time finding a structure to share too many of them. I used to spend days crafting one single article, but almost none was reading me. That wasn’t reassuring but, it was also encouraging as it becomes a personal challenge.
A daily meet-up
I remember that while growing in a Latino culture, telenovelas were a daily meet-up. Telenovelas are serial dramas or soap operas, multiple stories around one self-contained story. It is like a modern, and extended version of all-known princesses at once. I am still impressed by their cultural influence and impact. Some people said that they transformed our generation. It may be.
This cocktail of experiences and first failures trying to craft a compelling message, teach me that stories are not only about facts and research. Instead, I learned that what I enjoyed the most was the way the story structure captures my attention, transports me into the author’s world, and creates that emotional connection.
Our human brain adores stories
We are storytelling creatures; our brains are wired to want and need stories. Stories change attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
Storytelling helps us make sense of complex information and connect with it emotionally to become meaningful and worth remembering. For example, consider the “highway accident effect.” None of us would want to see the sight of injured people, yet we can’t help but sneak a peek as we go by the place of the accident. Here, the human brain strongly signals you to take a look. It believes there is always a valuable lesson that you can learn because accidents, although rarely seen, are always an “unhappened” part of our daily activities.
Here are three techniques I learned about compelling storytelling that grabs people’s attention and drive change.
1. Capture and hold the attention
In a quiet theatre, Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, grabs War Machine and shoots up on the massive screen at the front. The audiences are on the edge of their seats, some gripping the armrests, while others are stuck in motion. The heart is racing, and the palms are sweating as Stark falls on Earth, not opening his eyes. Finally, everyone catches their breath as they realize it’s the death of the Iron Man.
Human attention is a scarce resource. Any book, TV show, movie, or narrative means conveying a message and including a “hook” that makes the audience turn the page or keep put. Attention is like a spotlight. The brain shines this light only on a narrow area; if that area doesn’t seem to retain interest, the attention tends to wander. From the storytelling perspective, the only way to keep the attention focused is to build the narrative’s tension continually.
2. Transport into the characters’ world
When the story has successfully hooked the attention long enough, the audience begins to resonate with the characters emotionally. This is called — transport to their world. This is when the audience experiences sweating palms and racing hearts, as in the movies of Iron Man when he fights with a villain, War Machine, on top of a spaceship.
Transportation, as most of us can agree, is a fantastic neural feat. The audience is so engrossed in the narrative that despite the fictional flickering images, their brain can simulate the same emotions that Iron Man is feeling at that time in the scene.
3. Make it personal
Readers don’t want us to be perfect. In fact, research shows you’re more likable if you are authentic because it makes you more relatable. Vulnerability and authenticity are key to making a story interesting and memorable, and engaging readers on your journey. Even Iron Man is not a perfect or exciting human.
You need to mine your personals stories to connect. Start by keeping a journal of your stories as a child, teenager, professional experiences, everything that comes to your mind. In the beginning, you don’t realize how valuable they are, but you start to create these beautiful connections with your experiences and the messages you want to share.
It is a precious source of inspiration, on top of helping you recall some awesome life moments, your first travel, your mother cooking breakfast, or your first date. Then, what I found more exciting is to discover that all the fabulous people who crossed my path left a story to tell in our livers.
Many leaders and entrepreneurs have already tapped the power of storytelling by observing how a compelling and well-constructed narrative can bring about a significant change in opinion. They know a story is needed when speaking in front of a crowd or writing a post on social media. Anytime you want to inspire, influence, motivate or clarify, a story can help.
If you want to better influence and get your points understood and supported, you need storytelling. When in doubt, don’t describe facts; show how those facts come to life for you.
Tell me which stories you would like to share?
If you want to start crafting your stories here is a free and ready-to-use framework to practice the art of storytelling. “The Power of Storytelling — Workbook.”