Story The Shapeshifter

I’m travelling around England, a country saturated in story at every turn.
There are patterns to the stories as they go back so many many centuries, and the stories layer one over another with such a deep and long history.
The patterns create many juxtapositions.

And there are always so many versions, efforts to verify, to prove, to disprove.
It is a great pursuit, but you do wonder when people will arrive at the absolute truth about moments in history.
And meanwhile, generations create and recreate their own history.
The story of a place and of people can shift shape over time.
There will always be room for the people who focus on the detail, seeking accuracy and accounts of a story. And then there are those that are moved by the feel of a place, of people. For them, the accuracy of account is not critical.
As a story teller, I must work to serve all those ways of receiving story and information.
Studying film making I learnt that even the most abstract films had a clear structure, and interestingly Robert McKee, film script expert says fantasy is the genre that has the most precise story structure.
Otherwise if the story is not plausible people will switch off.
So the great craft of the story is to serve those that want the facts and figures, however they might be manipulated, and to serve those that want the more emotive and primal elements that affect the senses.
There will always be multiple storylines, but the reason for sharing them will always be the most important element.

Story Hiccups

A story that is too slick is here today gone tomorrow.

A story that shows human flaws, the good and the bad of people and life, and their journey through it sticks. I had a stark reminder of this the other evening. I gave a presentation where I included outlining 5 key elements of a great story. Trouble was I only spoke about 4. One person noticed and came up to me at the end of the presentation. What was the 5th point, she asked.

 Mortified, I froze and couldn’t remember. I felt ridiculous, but emailed her the next day with the fifth point. It was: make sure there are twists and turns in a story, some surprise, some suspense. She and I saw the humour in the potential meaning that I had left the fifth point out as a test, surprise or element of suspense.

 Great stories have set ups and pay offs, they have great architecture. I wish I had designed my presentation that way. I always work to improve the architecture of my story.

I thought I had ruined the presentation, but the feedback has been great, so the flaws and my ‘being myself’ won out.

 The other funny aspect to this is that a story I share is about freezing on stage in front a huge school audience when I was a teenager. In little ways today, I can still freeze. I’ve told lots of friends and family about my messing up the fifth point in my presentation. They laugh and nod knowingly. Owning it and getting over it has become part of the story.

I have to admit fairly and squarely, I am not a numeric person particularly. Following a linear structure is not easy for me. When I speak, I go with the flow and weave together stories. But I will always work at structure, to serve those that need it.

Everyone’s Got a Story

As a young journalist in the late 1970s if I was sent out on a story, coming back with nothing was unforgivable.  Newsrooms were tough environments in those days, and coming back empty handed from an assignment was a terrifying thought as editors would tear a strip off you.
I developed a powerful muscle to believe there was always a story to be found.
Mark Twain once wrote: “There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside of the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy.”
Social media has taken us to a new crossroads. There are now compelling opportunities to share our own and other stories where and when we like.
We no longer have to rely on traditional media like the news, the movies and TV to be the sole creators and distributors of stories.
In life, and in business, we are now all story creators, it is not just the business of the marketing or PR department, or clever actors and writers.
But let’s be honest, storytelling comes easier to some than to others. However,  great stories and storytellers are now just about the gregarious, charismatic loud people. Often it is the quiet ones that have the most powerful stories to tell and then can come in a few stuttered words, and a few images a few actions that touch hearts and minds.
It is all about finding our natural storytelling mode. It might be holding up cards with text in front of a camera, it might be speaking, it might be mime, who knows.
The point is to start exploring your storytelling mode. We all have one.
Here are three key tips to get the ball rolling.
1.     Record your observations; with a pen, with a mic, or with a doodle. But stop, look, listen, and record, even if it is simply watching the traffic pass on a street.
2.     Explore your storytelling modes. If you are confronted by a blank page, use another medium, or ask someone to interview you.
3.     Share your story. Speak it out. To a friend, to someone online, to the dog, to the wall, but get it out.
 “ There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. “
Maya Angelo