What’s your story’s formula?

Every great story ever told has a formula. These days we might like to call it an algorithm, a story algorithm.

Ever since I decided to major on whiteboard animation stories as my mission, I have been attracting more knowledge from the people in my network. 

One such attraction was Michael-Don Smith (Don), someone I’ve been connected to for 7 years. We met recently again at a networking event and he mentioned Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey (1949). And no I had not heard of it, remarkably!

(The word Hero in this article is being referred to a gender neutral form, which is allowed apparently, I looked it up!)

There are other story algorithms that came after, David Adams Leeming (1981), Phil Cousineau (1990), Christopher Vogler (2007).

And when I researched it, it made just perfect sense, something I naturally had adopted in my whiteboard animation stories for clients and now I had confirmation that my story approach was 100% correct. A polite pat on my own back and I know I have loads to learn still.

I will explain briefly. Every great story told tells the journey of hero. Their quest and their obstacles and villains to defeat. Pretty much like life itself really. Maybe that’s why we can all relate so well to stories. They all follow 3 basic steps and then more steps within those as per the table below.

But for us to really be drawn into the story, it will pivot back and forth between what is and what could be. There really is no point of a story to start with the hero, starting their quest, defeating the villain and then going back home. That would be too predictable and too easy. The hero will have several obstacles to face, making us believe that it’s almost impossible to come back from those. Every time the hero overcomes an obstacle or defeats a villain another one comes around the corner. 

We all love it that the hero has an almost impossible task to achieve and somehow, some way it manages to survive and come back from the dead, in some cases literally.

That’s why we all love movies so much, especially the biggest blockbusters, whether Star Wars, Harry Potter, Avatar and many many more. 

Now let’s take The Hero’s Journey into your own world. If you are in business or have a role in sales or marketing, your mission is to become a better storyteller. If you know that everyone and I do mean everyone loves stories then you already know that your clients will love stories too, it's a given.

We already know that most of us do not like the adverts and yes some of them are clever little stories too. Not all of them though, next time you’re watching TV just observe and count how many are stories and how many are just ‘buy me’ messages.

Awareness is the first step and although most of us are reluctant to change to start with, when we finally decide to change we will conquer our fears. 

Practice makes perfect.

Start by writing a short story about your product or service. Place a hero as the main character in your story, how was your hero affected by the problem or the obstacle being faced, present a couple more issues on top of the first one and then present how your hero overcame all of those obstacles by using your product or service. 

Often there is no need to share the full detail of your product or service and how it solved your hero's issue, it is enough to just imply it. Leaving people wanting more is often a good thing.

Try it out, send me your draft and I will be happy to critique it.

Success with your new story!


ps. Saw this great TEDx talk titled the magical science of storytelling