Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Human Connection of Stories

In the movie Ray, Jamie Foxx, playing Ray Charles, is quoted saying the reason people like country music is because of the stories.  How right he was!  The human tradition of storytelling is almost as old as humanity itself.  Stories remind us that we are not alone in the universe; that other people have faults, struggles, and triumphs just like we do.  Good stories can be a powerful connecting force, which is why you may have heard that telling your business' story is an excellent tool to aid you in the acquisition of new members.  But what to include?  How to write it?  Today, I thought we could brush up on the components that go into a good story; a freshman English refresher course if you will.  So be mindful, pay close attention, and expect a quiz first thing tomorrow!

    The three most important elements of story are plot, characters, and narrative point of view.  The plot, or narrative, is the events that make up what happens in a story.  In our context this could mean the events leading up to the opening of your business, milestones in the history of your business, or any combination of the two.  When thinking up your story's plot, be sure to only include events pertinent to the kind of story you are trying to tell.  If you are trying to tell the story of how your business overcame insurmountable odds in it's infancy, talking about the color choices of your advertisement probably isn't the most important information.  On the other hand if you run a fashion line and your story is about two people with a passion for beautiful color, mentioning color choices would be extremely apt.  It all depends on what you are trying to say.  When piecing together the plot of your story my advice would be, take some time and think carefully about what has been the driving force of your business and begin from there.  A good story often writes itself!  Also, be sure your story does not have a finite ending, as you probably want your business to continue on into the future.
   The characters of your story, I think it goes without saying, are you and the people who have helped shape your business into what it is today.  This could include family, employees, financial backers; and be sure to include your customers, since you would hardly have a business without them!  In fact, any chance you have to include your customers, I would be inclined to do so, as any kind of community connection is an invaluable membership acquisition tool.  And remember: a good character is a compelling character.  Everyone on the earth is weird and quirky, and anytime they can be reminded that they are not the only weird, quirky people out there, they feel a connection.  So, any sort of personality traits that apply to your characters (this person had an interesting voice, so-and-so could make everybody laugh, etc.) is going to help make your story more interesting.
  When it comes to narrative point of view we get to the more technical side of writing, but it can be an extremely important tool in the telling of your story.  First-person narrative is a story told by a narrator who is also a character in the story.  If your business is a sole proprietorship this could mean using "I", or if there are many people involved, it could mean "we".  Third-person narrative is a story told by someone on the outside of the events looking in, and since they are not directly involved, you would never hear the words "I" or "you", unless they were in a quote.  Second-person refers directly to the audience and puts them right into the story (you woke up, you checked your mail, you ate breakfast).  While this may work for a segment of your story, you probably won't want to use it for the entire thing.  It wouldn't make any sense!  Also, give careful thought to the narrative voice of your story.  If your company wants to convey a lighthearted image, say for a children's toy line, a fun, whimsical voice would be used.  On the other hand, if you want your story to have a more somber tone, perhaps for a charity organization, a more serious narrative voice would be in order.

    Above all, no matter what your story is or how you want to tell it, be creative!  There's no reason you should feel bound to any kind of formula or format.  The last thing people want or need right now is more of the same thing.  Your business is a unique entity, and you should feel proud to tell your story in a unique way.  To quote a delicious fortune cookie I once read, "your way of doing what other people do their way is what makes you special".  So get to writing, and share your special story with the world!

Elana Pritchard is a representative of Peak Advertising, a nationally recognized performance marketing agency.  You can reach Elana with questions and feedback at

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