Tell a good story

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For most of human history stories have been told, not written. Anyone who has sat around a camp fire, telling creepy tales, will know the power of them to thrill and delight. And today the success of the TED franchise continues to show the popularity and potency of a good story.

We know all that but so often we don't apply it. We tell a bad story, or no story at all, and the result is poor understanding, a lack of buy-in and the message being instantly forgettable.

The power of a good story should be used to engage the listeners in new learning, encourage creative thinking, build effective teams and establish the credibility of a new concept. Why doesn't that happen more often? It can be because we have forgotten, or perhaps never discovered, that there are seven simple stages to a good story, and that, if applied well, they can give a good, engaging story every time.

The seven stages of a good story were neatly described by Gustav Freytag, way back in 1863.

1. Start with the exposition: introduce the characters and set the scene.

2. Move to an inciting incident: the event that upsets the apple cart, creates problems and weakens the status quo.

3. Build the action by layering events or issues that make the tension grow.

4. Hit your climax with the peak point.

5. Let the action fall away as each event or issue falls into place.

6. Give them a resolution: make sure the main issue is resolved.

7. Bring the story to a satisfying close.

Watch apopular TED talk and see for yourself how even the most hesitant speaker can be supported in those seven steps to send a powerful message through a good story.

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