Many Stories Grow From a Single Sentence - Part 1 ... Success Tells The Story ...

INTRODUCTION 

The opening line to your story can be simple, eloquent, informative, contradictory, startling, thrilling, curious, suspenseful … But it should propose a contract to your audience: If you keep listening, I’ll tell you a certain kind of story.

In this lesson, you will take time to think about an intriguing way to begin your Success Story.

You will learn to craft the beginning, the middle and the end of your story.

Through Aisling’s story (the protagonist in the story/case study in this lesson), you will learn how to use the 6 Tips to Help You Develop Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story. You will also use the #6TIPS as a tool to both structure and test your story.

The #6TIPS:

#TIP1. State your theme at the outset: Consider the central theme of your story idea and brainstorm ways to distil it down to a single sentence; 

#TIP2. Begin with a strange/unusual/interesting detail: A great opening line hooks your audience and captures their attention the moment you begin your story;

#TIP3. Establish your character’s voice - that’s your voice: The best stories are truthful, simple and consistent. Those are the three frame words of delivering great storytelling - truthful, simple and consistent. Over time that’s how brands are built - you are your own brand.

#TIP4. Introduce your narrative style: While each story has its own voice, the attitude, the soul, that’s all you. Let your signature style shine through;

#TIP5. Convey the stakes: Demonstrate how the loss or potential loss of something the protagonist believes is crucial in achieving their story's goal - Remember, everyone’s story is different. Everyone also has different stories - some will have higher or lower stakes. The important thing is that the stakes need to be high enough to give the audience a sense of the impact of the loss or potential loss to the protagonist;

#TIP 6. Set the scene: Setting the scene gives your audience an insight into what is about to unfold. It also helps you craft the beginning, middle and end of your story.

You will learn to write great stories. You will learn to increase the quality of your ideas. You will learn to share your unique stories by speaking them aloud.

That’s important because, as Patrick Winston shared in his:

Words of Wisdom

"Your success in life will be determined largely by your ability to speak, your ability to write, and the quality of your ideas.”

LECTURE

“Perhaps the story you finish is never the one you begin.”  Salman Rushdie. 

You may have an opening line going into your story, or you may discover it as you discover your story. Mostly you won’t know your entire story (or I don’t). You will write it to find out what happens.

But you need to have something going in. All stories begin with an idea. You need to have a general sense of where your story is going to go. You need to know the theme of your story. And to know that, you need to ask the question: 

What is my story about?


END OF LECTURE

Let’s look at this in the context of Aisling’s Story: A Case Study:

A TALE OF THREE FUNDAMENTAL WORKLIFE STORIES PART 1: THE SUCCESS STORY:

Aisling works independently as a WorkLife learning practitioner and writer. She had taken a year out to write her latest book. Turning up at her laptop every day, creating learning resources and writing stories is her happy place. Oftentimes she’ll write from dawn to dusk, stopping only briefly to eat before continuing late into the night. 

But as much as she loves the solitude of creating and writing, she’s very aware that so much time alone is not good for her well-being and that she needs more social interaction. She’s also very aware that the other side of working independently as a creator is needing to promote herself and her work, and to do that, she needs to get out and about and mingle more. After all, she has a new book to tell people about.

That’s OK because Aisling loves to meet people. She loves to hear their stories, and she loves to tell her own story. But having been out of circulation for so long, she felt her storytelling techniques needed a little fine-tuning, and so that’s what she set out to do.

THE ART OF INSIGHTFUL QUESTIONS AND EFFECTIVE FEEDBACK

Aisling is a reflective soul and loves pondering on simple yet insightful questions that bring about effective feedback. 

So, she began by asking herself:

What type of stories do I like to listen to?

I love short stories that draw me in from the very first sentence because they give an insight into the person and what makes them interesting, leaving me curious to want to learn more about their story.

Aisling knew these were the type of stories that she wanted to tell.

But she needed to know more. She felt she needed the bigger picture. So once again, she posed a question to herself:

What type of stories do I want to tell?

She thought about the stories she enjoyed listening to and why:

Success Stories - people talking with a sense of pride about something they consider to be an achievement in their WorkLife.

Failure Stories - people talking about a time when a failure or perceived failure came close to destroying them and how they moved beyond that to pick themselves back up. 

Passion Stories - people talking about their passion, the thing that inspires them and keeps them actively engaged and motivated in their WorkLife.

Aisling believed that SuccessFailure and Passion stories were the three fundamental stories in all WorkLife communication and situations. - from everyday conversations (including career and feedback conversations) to interviews and presentations to talks and negotiations to leadership and management to networking and building relationships.

She had the answer to her question: 

What type of stories do I want to tell? - her big picture answer - Success, Failure and Passion stories.

She now wanted to get more into the detail about what she wanted to tell in each of her stories. So, once again, she asked herself:

What type of story do I want to tell?

Thinking about the stories she loved to listen to and why she thought the most engaging stories are the personal stories people tell; they’re meaningful simply because it’s clear they have meaning to the storyteller. That makes them unique, which in turn makes them interesting. 

These were the type of stories that Aisling wanted to tell.

Aisling now had the answers to knowing the type of stories she wanted to tell - both the big picture and the detailed answers that would help her to craft her stories.

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In this lesson, #Lesson1, you will learn the Art of Crafting your Success Story. 

In #Lesson2, you will learn the Art of Crafting your Failure Story. 

In #Lesson3, you will learn the Art of Crafting your Passion Story.

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SUCCESS TELLS THE STORY 

Aisling set about crafting her Success Story by pondering the question:

What am I most proud of in my WorkLife?

Aisling considered the question in a way that demonstrates her thinking - her ideas and the quality of those ideas, in a way that shows her uniqueness and tells her truth.

An Aside: Thoughts are a mental process that keep on going in your mind unbated. Ideas are the formation of a plan or process that occur in your mind in relation to a possible course of action to achieve an objective. 

She took out her notebook and wrote down everything that came into her mind.

She went with the free flow of being in the moment, getting her thoughts out of her head and onto paper.

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CRAFT YOUR SUCCESS STORY WRITING ASSIGNMENT

To write your Success Story, Ponder the question:

What am I most proud of in my WorkLife?

Consider the question in a way that demonstrates your thinking - your ideas and the quality of those ideas, in a way that shows your uniqueness and tells your truth.

Take out a notebook, or on your device, write down everything that comes into your mind.

Go with the free flow of being in the moment, getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. 

What You’ve Accomplished: By getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, you’ve begun to structure your ideas to figure out your story. 

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Aisling then went about her day, letting her mind wander and wonder on the question:

What am I most proud of in my WorkLife?

She carried her notebook with her to gather her thoughts and ideas and to notice connections.

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LET YOUR MIND WANDER AND WONDER THINKING AND OBSERVATION ASSIGNMENT

As you go about your day, let your mind wander and wonder on the question:

What am I most proud of in my WorkLife?

This can be both consciously and subconsciously.

For example, by tapping into the Three B’s of Creativity, you can consciously pose the question, and then you can allow your subconscious mind to wander and wonder. 

THE THREE B’S OF CREATIVITY

BUS: (Which represents any form of travel and movement, including, for example, walking). Consciously pose the question to yourself, then allow your mind to switch off by focusing on your surroundings, allowing your subconscious mind to wander and wonder.

BATH:  Consciously pose the question to yourself before switching your mind off and doing nothing other than soaking in the wonderfully relaxing environment of your bathroom.

BED: Consciously pose the question to yourself before drifting off to sleep, allowing your subconscious mind to wander and wonder.

Remember to have your notebook or device with you. The process of writing is really important because even in the process of writing something simple - words, sentences, thoughts, ideas, your mind starts to notice connections, and connections are what stories are made out of.

What You’ve Accomplished: By adding more ideas to the mix, you’ll see your story take a clearer shape.

Continue to tap into both of these assignments to help build your Success Story.

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When Aisling was at a place where she was ready to craft her story, to test her opening line and to help structure and test her story, she used the 6 Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story.

Aisling went through her story line by line, section by section, using the Six Tips as a tool to both structure and test her story. This helped her to craft her opening line. It also helped her notice if a section was too busy and needed to be broken up or simplified. Or if it was too dull and needed to be eliminated. It also helped to keep her story short because, after all, that was Aisling’s aim. And it helped to control the pacing of the story.

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AISLING’S SUCCESS STORY

The Opening Line - The Beginning

You welcomed us into your heart and your life, and there will always be a place in our hearts and our lives for you. 

(#TIP2. Begin with a strange/unusual/interesting detail: A great opening line hooks your audience and captures their attention the moment you begin your story - Aisling believed she had accomplished this).

Those words represent what I consider to be my greatest success in my life. 

(#TIP1. State your theme at the outset: Consider the central theme of your story idea and brainstorm ways to distil it down to a single sentence - Aisling believed she had accomplished this).

The Continuing Story - The Middle 

When my marriage ended, I was concerned about how this would impact my relationship with my stepsons - Patrick, Seán and Liam - who had been an important part of my life for ten years. This was because the boys had busy lives of their own, and I wasn’t sure where I would fit in, or indeed if I would fit in. 

(#TIP5. Convey the stakes: Demonstrate how the loss or potential loss of something the protagonist believes is crucial in achieving their story's goal - Aisling believed she had accomplished this). 

Remember, everyone’s story is different. Everyone also has different stories - some will have higher or lower stakes. The important thing is that the stakes need to be high enough to give the audience a sense of the impact of the loss or potential loss to the protagonist;

I broached this with the eldest, Patrick, who said to me: “You welcomed us into your heart and your life, and there will always be a place in our hearts and our lives for you.” 

(#TIP 6. Set the scene: Setting the scene gives your audience an insight into what is about to unfold. It also helps you to craft the beginning, middle and end of your story - Aisling believed she had accomplished this.

She believed that this reminded the audience of what her story was about. It brought them back to the beginning of her story, and it helped her craft her continuing story - the middle and the end.)

True to his word, he and his brothers continue to include me in their important life events, as I do them. Patrick now had four boys of his own: Conor, Finn, Tadhg and Cian. The time I spend with them is the most rewarding and brings me so much happiness. 

(#TIP4. Introduce your narrative style: While each story has its own voice, the attitude, the soul, that’s all you, let your signature style shine through - Aisling believed she had accomplished this.)

The Closing Line - The End

Being welcomed into the hearts and lives of the people who mean so much to me truly represents the greatest success in my life. 

(#TIP3. Establish your character’s voice - that’s your voice: The best stories are truthful, simple and consistent. Those are the three frame words of delivering great storytelling - truthful, simple and consistent. Over time that’s how brands are built - you are your own brand. - Aisling believed she had accomplished this.)

Aisling then began to speak the words out loud. Slowly at first, and then on fast forward. This helped her to identify words and parts of her story that could potentially trip her up. It helped her to recognise what needed more or less emphasis. It helped her to consider how pacing and pausing could help her tell her story in a more interesting way to draw her audience in. 

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Use The 6 Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story To Both Test Your Opening Line and To Structure and Test Your Story Assignment

When you are at a place where you are ready to craft your story, to test your opening line and to help structure and test your story, use The Six Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story.

Go through your story line by line, section by section, using the Six Tips as a tool to both structure and test your story. This will help you to craft your opening line. It will also help you notice if a section is too busy and needs to be broken up or simplified. Or if it is too dull and needs to be eliminated. It will also help you to keep your story short. And it will help you to control the pacing of the story.

The #6TIPS

#TIP1. State your theme at the outset: Consider the central theme of your story idea and brainstorm ways to distil it down to a single sentence; 

#TIP2. Begin with a strange/unusual/interesting detail: A great opening line hooks your audience and captures their attention the moment you begin your story;

#TIP3. Establish your character’s voice - that’s your voice: The best stories are truthful, simple and consistent. Those are the three frame words of delivering great storytelling - truthful, simple and consistent. Over time that’s how brands are built - you are your brand;

#TIP4. Introduce your narrative style: While each story has its own voice, the attitude, the soul, that’s all you. Let your signature style shine through;

#TIP5. Convey the stakes: Demonstrate how the loss or potential loss of something the protagonist believes is crucial in achieving their story's goal - Remember, everyone’s story is different. Everyone also has different stories - some will have higher or lower stakes. The important thing is that the stakes need to be high enough to give the audience a sense of the impact of the loss or potential loss to the protagonist; 

#TIP 6. Set the scene: Setting the scene gives your audience an insight into what is about to unfold. It also helps you to craft the beginning, middle and end of your story.

SPEAKING ASSIGNMENT

When you have crafted your story, speak the words out loud. Slowly at first, and then on fast forward. As with Aisling, this will help identify words and parts of your story that could potentially trip you up. It will help you to recognise what needs more or less emphasis. It will help you to consider how pacing and pausing could help tell your story in a more interesting way to draw your audience in. 

What You’ve Accomplished: You’ve just structured your entire story, crafted a great opening line and ran your lines.

AFTERWORD
Keep a notebook devoted solely to this course. While the assignments are designed to help you craft your story in line with the topic of each lesson, you will likely want to continue to build on each individual story and to also build a collection of stories. Having a collection of stories that are unique to you that you can tap into to tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations is what The Art of WorkLife Storytelling is all about. 
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YOUR CONTINUOUS LEARNING ASSIGNMENTS 

THE ART OF JOURNALING AND THE ART OF THINKING: OBSERVATION AND WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS 

Develop your storytelling ability by making storytelling part of your daily life. After all, storytelling is the best communication tool in all WorkLife situations. Whenever you want to connect to people, tell a story.

Do this by simply connecting with people through conversations. Listen to their stories. Ask insightful questions - remember the old adage: “To be interesting, be interested.” Dale Carnegie.

By being observant, your mind will start noticing connections, and connections are what stories are made out of. Write down your observations. Journaling on your thoughts enables you to increase the quality of your ideas.

This, in turn, will enable you to build a range of stories that you can then tap into to tell the right story at the right time. Your authentic stories because they’re coming from your thoughts and ideas, your feelings and emotions, your beliefs and values, and your learning through your WorkLife experiences. All of which makes you, your voice and your stories unique because they come from your authentic truth - who you are, what you’re about. What’s important to you, what you stand for and what you stand against. 

What You’ll Accomplish: Stories will come to you easily and effortlessly. You’ll become an active participant in your own WorkLife story.

COLLECTING LINES ASSIGNMENT

Start collecting lines - something that someone once said to you that has always remained with you. A line overheard. A line in a performance - film, tv, theatre. A line from something you read in a book or article, or blog. A line you heard on the radio or in a podcast. Wonderful lines that draw you in are everywhere. Start paying attention to both remember old lines that have impacted you in your WorkLife, and to notice new lines that you can add to your repertoire of great opening lines. 

What You’ll Accomplish: You’ll build that wonderful repertoire of great opening lines.

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This story is from my Substack Publication: The Art of WorkLife Storytelling created to help you Learn To Craft Your Unique Stories. 

Every Tuesday, I publish a new story. On the last Tuesday of each month, I make the story available to all readers. The stories I publish on the other weeks are available to subscribers only. Subscribers have access to the full archive. The subscription is £5 p.m. 

This allows me to honour my commitment to create WorkLife learning resources that are accessible to everyone, that also reflect the value at a fair price to all – individuals who are responsible for their own learning, companies who want to invest in the learning of their people, and me as the creator. 

If you think this story would be helpful to someone you know, please feel free to share it.

If you found this story helpful and would like to receive all the weekly stories, you can sign up within any of my weekly ‘subscriber only’ lessons. The Art of WorkLife Storytelling publication goes out every Tuesday on my WorkLife Stories blog.

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Resources

The Coffee Break Screenwriter by Pilar Alessandra.

The 6 Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story was adapted from: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/tips-for-writing-the-opening-line-of-your-novel#6-tips-for-writing-a-great-opening-line.

Aisling’s learning was inspired by www.masterclass.com, and Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling Class. 

Words of Wisdom was inspired by: https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/emotional-intelligence-mit-patrick-winston-how-to-communicate-effectively-how-to-write.html.