|Should stories be dramatic? Incredibly, the answer is NO. Drama comes from the 90% principle.
And this means that your audience needs to know 90% of your story in advance. And that's one of the elements that make storytelling incredibly powerful.
If I were to get you to write a story right now, what would you do?
You would think of the elements you would build up the characters. You would approach a story as if you were writing a novel. And if you're writing a novel, that's a great idea. If you're writing a movie script, that's a great idea. However, when you're creating an e-book or a book or a presentation or a webinar, it's not a great idea anymore.
Because a lot of the story gets lost because people don't remember the details. And in this episode of Storytelling it's the third in the series of Storytelling. So you had episode 5, 6 and this is the seventh. We start to explore the science and go deeper into the elements of Storytelling.
In this episode we talk about the 90% principle. Why it is so important to have most of the story embedded in the customer's minds in the listeners minds. We also look at a concept called counterflow and how it is important to have this counter movement rather than just the story moving forward. And finally we look at the pivotal moment.
How an entirely boring story can be turned around in one moment? Now we'll be covering a lot about storytelling in this podcast series over the weeks and months and years to follow. So let's go into this episode where we cover the three topics. The first one being the 90% principle, the second counterflow, and the third is the pivotal moment.
Whenever you're telling stories, one of the things that people tend to do is put too much information in the stories.
So let's say you're telling a story about Jack and then Mary comes in and then Charlotte and then Anita. And now you've got too many elements that the person has to deal with. So people often tend to make up stories and they put in all of these elements and you don't want to have that. You want to have 90% of your story in place.
So when a person is listening to your story, they don't have to make up 90%. It's only 10% of that story that they need to figure out. So when we look at a story like in the brain audit, which is the book, you're talking about putting bags on a flight and then standing at the conveyor belt or the Carousel and getting those bags off the flight. Now, what's happened there is that 90% of the story is in place.
You've been on a flight, you know, that you have to put them on, you have to take them off, and the thing that has changed, the elements that have changed are just the factor of the seven red bags. And that one bag goes missing. So when you listen to that story on the brain audit, what we have here is 90% of the information is already in place.
Let's take another example. Let's say you are trying to get into a car and you're fiddling with a key and it's not opening and you know it looks like your car and it's still not opening. Now we've tried to do something like that. We’re trying to get into a wrong hotel room or trying to get into a wrong car.
90% of that story is in place.
10% has changed and that 10% is what makes it personal, what makes it your own. This is not the case when you were talking about case studies. Case studies unfold in a way that a completely different from person's stories. But personal stories are what kind of get the audience on your side. Case studies are something that someone else did.
So I would always recommend A that you have personal stories and B that 90% of that story is already in the customer's brain and you're just tweaking 10%. That's what makes it powerful. That's what makes it different from a case study. Get the 90% just tweaked the 10%. And this takes us to the second element which is something called counterflow.
Now you have flow, well this is counterflow.
When we write a story or when we recount a story, what we tend to think is that the only way to get a story going is to go forward. So you think of sequence, but there is also empty sequence or what I would call counterflow. So there is flow in this counterflow. So it's almost like someone's headed towards success and then there is a barrier.
And that kind of slows down the story. It takes it a different kind of flow as it were. When you look at the seven-ray bag story or when you listen to the seven-ray bag story, it seems like everything's going fine. One red bag is coming off the Corusel. So you put all these bags in the flight and then one came off.
And the second came off and the third came off. And now there's counterflow. In there is the green bag, you know, orange bag, you'd have bulk it out bag. And then of course this flow again, which is the fourth bag comes out in the fifth bag. And then the sixth bag. Now there's flow again, but then the seventh bag is missing.
And that's counter-flow and that keeps the interest.
So when you're looking at any kind of story, you have to kind of look in critique it and go, is there flow and counter-flow? Is it going in favor and then slightly off kind of this favor? That is what makes great stories. You don't want to always have the sequence you also want to have is flow and counterflow. Makes things really interesting.
Which leads us right into the third element which is the pivotal moment.
A lot of writers are worried about writing something that is boring and you have to remember that there is no such thing as boring. Let me explain. Let me give you an example, say I'm giving you the story. I remember the night we were driving home on June 21st, it was dark rainy, even slightly foggy, and then I saw it.
In the middle of the freeway it looked like someone had stopped their car. And so I switched violently to the right, and the next moment to my horror, a car zoomed right past me. The car was hurtling down the wrong side of the freeway with no headlights. Moments later, we heard a second-in-crushed of metal behind us.
Did that paragraph get your attention?
It didn't, didn't it, because it's dramatic. The car was on the wrong side of the freeway. Yes, the driver was drunk, and yes, he would have hit us, hit on at about 70 to 80 miles an hour, if I hadn't swed. And stories such as this one make for enormous, hallowed pounding drama, but what if your story is less dramatic?
For example, let's say you went to the post office today, there's a parcel waiting for you.
Now there are five different scenarios that could pop up just from the post office. You could be waiting for this parcel for a long time and it excites you no end. You could be not expecting any parcel and then finding a parcel just brightens up your day. You could be expecting a parcel and get someone else's parcel, which leads to disappointment.
Or you could be expecting a parcel, get the parcel, but it's the start to a series of events that you could not have predicted. or you could be expecting a parcel, but the contents are broken. And this leads to some other event. So this is just a parcel stuff, and you probably got bored with all the variations, but the point is just very simple. The point is that there is no such thing as a boring event.
What is boring is the way in which we put it forward?
Because if you are a Hollywood director, you would see drama and everything, because any incident leads to another incident which leads to a third, fourth, fifth incident. Any incident can start off being perfectly good and then turn horribly bad. Or any incident could be terrible to begin with and then turn out to be amazingly fabulous.
So what we're really talking about is a pivotal moment and that pivotal moment is simply a moment which spins in some direction. Other gets better or worse. And any moment can be a pivotal moment. So you have a story from your life, and you say, “Well, that's really mundane. I woke up today.” And then something happened.
What is that moment? So let's take a dramatic moment. Let's say a bully is beating you up at one moment. But then what happens the next? Do you stumble? Does the bully hit his head on the table and knock himself out cold? Does someone come to your rescue? or do we get beat in the black and blue.
The point is that you could be doing anything like eating a spaghetti, a bowl of spaghetti, and then the next moment something changes. One moment you're driving down the road and something changes, one moment you're getting drenched in the downpour and then something changes. Every situation can go from good to bad, bad to good and then keep bouncing back. All you have to decide is what is the pivotal moment.
What is that moment that the story goes off and attention? And when you have that moment, what you do is you keep the story going ahead. So there is no such thing as a boring story. There is a boring way in which to put the story. What is your pivotal moment? That's what you've got to decide.
And once you decide that, you don't have the problem of being boring anymore. So figure out your pivotal moment and how your story is going to change and you can create drama in pretty much any story. And this brings us to our action plan.
What should we do next?
What's the one thing that we can do as a result of listening to all of these three things? So we learned about the 90% principle and how you need to have 90% of your story in place right at the start. We also looked at counter-flow and how you can move a story forward, but then you have to have moments where you move it backwards in a way, counter-flow. And finally, we looked at the pivotal moment in how even a seemingly boring story can be turned on a dime.
But what are we going to do as a result of learning all these three things?
The first thing that I would do or probably the only thing I would do is look at a story that is 90% done. Any story. And then tweak it for that 10% to make it my own, to make it unique to me. And the best way to go about it is to take a person's story. Because we all have person's stories that other people can relate to, but it is your own. And that's what makes all the difference. And of course this brings us to the end of the third part in the storytelling series.