5 Elements of a Badass Story
Great storytelling is an art, yes. It's also not nearly as complicated as some would have you believe. You don't have to be a 'creative' or a 'writer' to tell a great story. You can be an engineer, scientist, mathematician, lawyer, entrepreneur or designer.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret... there's really only one thing that makes a story great, engaging, relatable, shareable.
Are you ready? Ok, here it is:
Can the listener see him or herself in your story?
At the end of the day, that's really all it is. Storytelling is a way of connecting to the world around us and attributing meaning to the things that are taking place in our life.
Why do people buy things? Because the product/service fits into and enhances their own story.
Why do people watch movies and read books? Because the storyline fits into and enhances their own story.
Why do people vote for one person and not the other? Because that candidates story is more aligned with their worldview/story.
You see, living your own story is satisfying in itself, but being a storyTELLER means that you are telling your story to another.
There are multiple ways that your story can connect to your listener. Here are the top 5. Keep in mind that you don't ever need to include all 5 of these elements. Just one or two in each story will do.
5 Elements that Make a Badass Story
1. A Universal Truth
A universal truth is something that is true for all humans. It's a fundamental characteristic of the human condition. When you can tap into this, nearly every listener will be able to relate on a fundamental level. This is a storytelling element that many comedians tap into. Here's an example of comedian Brian Regan tapping into the universal truth of 'being inconvenienced by a system you have little control over'
Some examples of Universal Truths are:
- Childhood experience and parental influence
- The desire to love and be loved
- The experience of stress
- The ways society conditions us
- Being inconvenienced by a system you have little control over
2. A Shared Struggle
When you can find common ground with your listener through a shared struggle, you generate camaraderie and empathy which, in turn, contributes to trust. This is much more specific than a Universal Truth and will require you to know a little bit more about your listener.
Here are some examples of Shared Struggle:
- You're talking to a new mother and tell her your story of the horrors of trying to breastfeed in an airplane
- You're talking to your co-worker and tell him a story of how impossible it is to eat healthy lunch at the office when you only have 30 minutes
- You're designing a marketing campaign for a product that makes it easy to clean up your dog's waste. You create a video illustrating the trials and tribulations of dog-ownership like this one here.
3. A Morally Uplifting Message
It's no big secret that life is hard and the world feels like it's falling apart. Stories that tap into a universal truth or a shared struggle and round out with a morally uplifting message are my favorite. Many books, TV shows, and movies utilize this story element. In this fast-paced, digital world, listeners really like digestible sound bites that they can carry with them once a story comes to a close.
One of my favorite examples of this is the South Park TV series. The whole show is irreverent and hilarious and they always finish each episode with some sort of uplifting message that makes you think about your life and situation in a more positive way.
4. A Bit of Good Humor
Humor is one of the best ways to connect to your audience. Really, who doesn't like to laugh? Well-timed and well-constructed humor can go farther than many other storytelling elements in bridging the gap between you and your audience.
Here are some companies, writers, and bloggers that effectively use humor in their storytelling:
5. An Unanswered Question
There are two ways to navigate this approach to storytelling. First, you pose a question to the listener and then have a discussion about it and hear their thoughts and stories. Second, you pose a question that you have already found the answer to and take the listener on the journey that way. Many podcasts and interview-style TV shows operate using this type of storytelling.
Here are a few people/podcasts that use unanswered questions well: