Storytellers. That’s you. That’s me. It’s every single person posting a selfie on Instagram, adding emojis and flashing text to their Tik Tok, or creating a how-to video for a Youtube channel. No longer is storytelling relegated to the realm of the novelist. Stories are not fiction.
The truth is that they never have been. Stories can, of course, be fiction. They are also what we tell our neighbors over the fence. Our family gathered for the holiday meal. Our co-workers in line for the microwave. We love to tell stories. As listeners, a story is what we want to hear. We are not interested in a recitation of events or a list of facts.
A story is always about more than the person telling it. The story you tell, your story, is about me. When I hear how you conquered a monster (the evil boss) or overcame an obstacle (figured out how to light your face for the perfect Zoom interview), that story tells me that I can conquer. I can overcome. I can have the victory.
When someone tells a story, our brains light up. We put ourselves into the story and envision our own victory.
That is why it is so important for those of us that are trying to promote our own efforts — speakers creating a platform, bloggers, entrepreneurs creating an online storefront, crafters selling on Etsy, nonfiction authors, nonprofit leaders, marketers, copywriters, and yes, the novelist trying to sell their book — that we understand the principles of story.
When you understand that you are telling a story in your Tweet just as much as you need a story to open your TED Talk, that’s when your information turns into a connection point for your audience. No longer are you selling. You’re connecting.
Jen Hatmaker said it perfectly on Brene Brown’s podcast: “I’m not an author because I want to be a marketer. I’m an author because I want to serve my community”
That’s really it, isn’t it? You’re not a writer or poet, a nonprofit leader or an entrepreneur because you love talking ABOUT what you do. You want to get to the doing of what you do.
I feel the same way. I’d rather just share what I’m writing and creating than market my creations and hope for the best. But the best way to serve my community is to tell them I’ve made something that will serve them. Then the best way to communicate to my audience is by engaging them in a story.
In fact, I’ve been doing it right here . At the opening of this blog, I called out to your spirit. Your heart for being a storyteller. It’s your secret identity. That’s the first tool in storytelling—creating a connection through a universal truth.
There are more tools. Many more. So many, that I decided the best way to share them is by inviting other storytellers to give us their insights. Consider this your invitation to the StoryMaven podcast. Not only will you hear great stories, you’ll hear how professional storytellers, marketers, speakers, writers, poets, actors, musicians, and even a civil rights activist, overcame the obstacles in their path. You’ll see yourself in their stories. You’ll take the tools and methods they used and make them yours. Because that’s what storytelling does. It connects us to the victory and then we become the hero of someone else’s story.
You can find the StoryMaven Podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast. You can also find it on alicefairfax.com along with a free checklist you need to discover The Five Things Your Brand Story Needs.
Categories: Alice's Voice
Using personal anecdotes to connect with an audience is a familiar rhetorical strategy. The way you expand the definition of story is interesting and sent me thinking in different directions. On the one hand, it seems you’re saying stories are non-fiction, what some call the fourth genre. On the other hand, stories are rhetoric to connect and create community. On another level, stories are visual. For me as a fiction editor, stories are short fiction identified by the writer as such. I wonder if a pertinent factor is audience, since not all stories appeal to all audiences equally.