The Most Important Stage of Writing a Story

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Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, author, and comedian who teaches you how to harness the power of your story to connect, engage, and get results. In this blog, Kelly focuses on the business of professional speaking. Kelly’s post day is Friday. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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The most important step to writing your story…

I have now worked with hundreds of speakers in crafting and telling their stories, and I’m seeing one consistent pattern. Most of them have a really hard time getting that story on paper because they don’t have any idea what it’s really about and why they are telling it.

The most important stage of writing a story is understanding why you are telling it, and the purpose you want it to serve. So before you set out to create a magical path from beginning to end, stop, get out a fresh piece of paper, and answer these questions.

1. Why are you telling this story?

2. What will this mean to the audience?

3. How do you want this story to make them feel?

4. What do you want them to learn from this story?

5. What did this story teach you?

6. What makes this an interesting story?

7. How will they be able to relate to this story?

8. How do I relate to this story?

9. Does this story set up a problem I think they have?

10. Does this story solve a problem I think they have?

11. Is this story an illustration of my point?

12. What will make this story entertaining?

13. How will this story be authentic and unique to me?

14. What is the flavor in this story? Unusual characters? An accent I use? A funny moment?

15. Who are the key people in this story and how will I bring them to life?

16. What is this story about? What is this story REALLY about?

These are just a few questions to give you more clarity before you start writing your story.

In case you’re scratching your head, let me walk you through my process. I wrote a story called Bitsy’s Conquering Fear Idear. Before I actually wrote the story, here are the notes I took when I sat down to get clarity on it. I will answer the questions above, but with this story in mind.

1. I’m telling this story to connect with women, to make them laugh, to make them feel good no matter what size they are, and I’m telling this story because my message is on courage, and Bitsy is a great example of that.

2. This will encourage and empower the women in the audience to love themselves at any size – to show them that it really doesn’t matter – their worth is not wrapped up in a size.

3. Happy, entertained, inspired, free, loved and lovable

4. I want them to learn that, like Bitsy, self worth is something we choose, not something we wait to receive from someone else.

5. Bitsy taught me that what makes me different will actually make me great.

6. Bitsy is an interesting character. There are funny one-liners in it. And the plot itself is funny.

7. If my audience is all women they will totally relate. If it’s all men, I’ve chosen the wrong story.

8. I relate to this story because I too struggle with esteem and confidence.

9. No, this is not a story that identifies a problem in their life – unless it points out that they are waiting for someone else to make them feel valuable.

10. Yes, this solves the problem, by showing them that self worth is a choice.

11. Yes, this is an illustration of my point. That’s where it will go in my speech. Or maybe I will put it up front to open.

12.Already answered there. The character sketch, her marching through town and how I describe, and the funny. High entertainment value.

13. I know Bitsy. This is my town. These are my people.  So this story will feel like it’s personal, not grabbed out of a book.

14. Already answered.

15. Bitsy is really the key person. I bring her to life by talking about her personality quirks – her obsessions – the things she’s gotten wrapped up in in the past – and the description of her marching through town will be very vivid.

16. This story is about a woman marching through town in a bikini to prove to the world she is not afraid of what they think. This story is really about showing the audience that they can dance through life without being worried about what people think.

So, there you go. As you can see, I think a LOT about my stories before I write them. I hope this will give you more clarity with yours.  And you can probably see how just writing this stuff out, gave me some lines that actually ended up in the story and in my speech.

Happy Writing!