Planning For Planning
Most of what I do day to day involves me being able to communicate effectively. When I'm writing on this blog I have an aim which requires me to communicate what I've learned, to my readers, in an effective manner. When I'm at work, being front of house requires me to interact with customers and attempt to have them leave the restaurant in a better mood than when they walked in. And with my video logs, which I'm slowly starting to pick up again, I need to learn how to effectively share my story in a way that holds my viewer's attention.
They're just a few examples, but I won't bore you with any more. The point I want to make is that communicating is a vitally important skill. More specifically, the ability to successfully communicate a story is a vital skill. If you can sell a story, the world is yours.
Because of that, I decided to pick up a book called Wired For Story by Lisa Cron. On the face of it, it is a book for aspiring authors. Taken out of context, this book is an incredibly powerful lesson for how to share your thoughts with the world.
There are two really key skills that this book introduced me to. The first is that the story you're communicating needs to have focus. Three particular areas of focus.
The first is the protagonist's desire, or what they want. The characters desire in this way is actually the ending of the story or the achievement at the end of a video log. It is the ultimate outcome and the point of the story.
The next area is the theme of the story. The theme in this context actually refers to a human element, rather than a fancy dress variation. This is an underlying focus and expresses what it means to, to the protagonist, to be human. You could consider this focus to be almost like the characters core beliefs.
The final focus of the story is the plot. This is, as you might expect, the series of events that take your protagonist from A to B, where A is the starting point and B is the achievement of their goal.
The idea of focus was particularly hard hitting for me with regards to video blogs. When I've attempted to record in the past, I recorded at random intervals during the day and smash them together in the evening.
No wonder they sucked!
In future, when I get around to recording video blogs I will start by planning. Start by identifying the core theme of the channel, which will centre somewhere around family, friendly and fun. At the start of each day, I will try to identify a compelling story from my to-do list and set that as my desire. I'll finish up by sketching a brief overview of how I would like the plot to go.
Either way, in any area of communication you should try to cut the gumph out. Don't add anything to the story that isn't relevant. Ironic considering I'm sharing about the video blogging, but this blog is a great way for me to deepen my ideas. Sorry about that.
While it is easy to think of a story as a series of steps that were taken to arrive at the destination, there is another story hidden behind the obvious. The emotional journey is just as, if not even more, powerful.
If you can get your audience to feel a sense of empathy toward you, you can capture them as loyal fans. Empathy creates a bond, a sense of understanding that transcends simple descriptions. If you feel my pain, you're far more likely to want to help me get rid of it.
Ironically, purposefully collecting empathy from your audience is not as easy as it might seem. And it requires a task that is far harder than it might seem. To really connect with your audience on a deep level, you have to be completely authentic.
An additional little tip is to be as specific as you can as that makes it far easier for an audience to visualise a situation. When our conscious mind is essentially made from visual images, you can probably work out the advantage on your own.
There were a number of other little bits of information that are highly useful for storytelling but are beyond the scope of this article. They will, of course, be shared in future articles, though, so don't worry.
The important takeaway from this blog post is that your stories should be highly focused and never deviate from at least one of the three areas of focus. The other take home is that if you want your audience to connect with your story, you need to get them to make an emotional commitment.