Story is perhaps the most important thing for online business owners, but many entrepreneurs struggle with the concept and how it applies to and enhances your marketing and business, and even what it means.
So while I endeavor to make all the shifts into ease for myself, it’s time to get clear about what I mean with this concept of Story.
And for the sake of specificity of language and clarity of thought, I want to lay out a few ways to view Story, to understand what makes a story, why the act of creating that story is perhaps the most important thing for online business owners, and why we must all be the storytellers of our own lives.
If I’m perfectly honest, I can’t remember a time where I didn’t understand everything as a story.
It wasn’t necessarily anything so fantastical as imaginary play at all times, more like I was acutely aware of the possibility of being recorded.
Like, what if I was being observed at this very moment, what would my choice of these purple stretchy pants over those jeans with the holes in the knees say to the viewer?Or if someone was recording the way I eat my peas at dinner, how would they interpret the use of my fork?
There was always the feeling that I could be watched or viewed or a record could be made.
Whether it be a Judeo-Christian god or simply a cosmic ledger, I had a perpetual sense of every action having it’s small and large repercussions on my future and the future of those around me. Sometimes that was a burden to bear, sometimes that was an exercise in futility, sometimes I’d just put that overwhelming sense into a little box in my mind and leave it be so I could play with abandon.
All of this to say: I cannot for the life of me think back to a time where I wasn’t thinking of my life and the events in it as individual or collective stories.
What was startling was the very thing I now chat with clients about all the time: that which is most easy and obvious to you, really isn’t obvious or easy to other people.
Choosing the purple stretchy pants rather than the jeans was obvious to me, but not necessarily to anyone observing me.
That’s where Story comes in.
It’s how you illustrate your obvious-to-you ideas and thoughts to others.
The good news is that story is anything and everything and you get to decide it all.
That’s it, there’s no bad news, it’s all up to you.
Would that it were so simple.
What is Story literally?
In a most practical sense, Story is wherever there is a beginning, a middle, and an end.
- To begin is the first step of every story; a place, a setting, some version of context is given. The setting of the stage, as it were, is just as important as any of the three pieces and not to be rushed.
- The middle is the conflict, the tension, the question of where this might go without knowing where it will go.
- The end is the resolution, the point of connection between the teller and the listener.
The telling of a good story is in the beginning, middle, end being made personal.
For example, we all know the beginning, middle, end of making a cup of tea.
Water must be boiled, a cup must be procured, we either measure out the loose tea into a steeping apparatus or we pluck a sachet from a box, the boiling water is poured over the dried tea, and there we have it. A most basic act of making tea.
The verbs, the adjectives, the adverbs, every bit of language can be constructed to impart a specific experience of this particular cup of tea. The story of the tea is in how you the writer, or the subject of the story, does this act of making tea and experiences it, because even if the act is seemingly exactly the same, unless you’ve torn a hole in the time/space continuum, it will be different.
With every cup, with every scoop of earl grey, with every steam curling stir of the spoon, the act of making and enjoying tea can in itself be Story (and a good story at that).
This brings us to what makes a story compelling: the narrative.
Narrative is what makes Story compelling
The crafting of the story, of the beginning/middle/end is narrative.
Narrative is the molding of the elements, the choice of what to include to create the experience for the listener/viewer/reader/other side of the equation. It is the act of direction for the story to lead to connection.
It is the guiding hand on the small of the back.
The gentle tug at the hem of a shirt.
The single lit bulb in the upstairs window that directs the eye.
Narrative is the curation that leads to connection.
Narrative arc is what MAKES connection.
Narrative is what makes a story interesting.
In order to tell a compelling story, the most important thing to start with is to know and believe and be compelled by the events and emotions and experiences you wish to relate!
If you don’t have anything at stake in the experience, then heavens to Betsy, why should I the listener?
I don’t need to mirror your emotions exactly, but if there’s not passion or compulsion in the telling of Story, where can there possibly be a desire to listen?
This is where we often go silent because we forget the wonder of the unknown.
So to us the making of a cup of tea at 4pm in the afternoon is as mundane as breathing; but to the friend who has never experienced our tea time ritual? Or the faceless reader who had never thought to make a ritual of tea? There’s great wonder in The Other, and there’s great connection to be found in sharing what our ordinary moments are.
And this – this! – this is why I might argue we have an obligation to share the most ordinary and mundane moments of our lives in some version of Story.
Because what is so ordinary and rote to us is wild and different to outside eyes, and it’s when we resonate through stories we find our humanity, our connection to each other.
Which is really what this all comes down to: stories are connection.
The act of Story is that of connecting to another person, even ever so briefly, through a shared experience or emotion or event.