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Please Tell Me a Story

Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick talks about The Curse of Knowledge, making our writing sticky, simpleunexpectedconcretecredible, and emotions. We’re to our last principle: stories. (Are you surprised that this wasn’t my favorite topic. Not to fear: it’s a close second to emotions.)

Fill in the Gaps

The last sticky principle we’ll review is stories. Did you know the human brain is wired for stories? In fact, if it doesn’t know the whole story, it fills in the gaps. (Which, tangentially, is how arguments get started: we’ve filled in missing pieces of information ourselves and convince ourselves that the story is true. That’s known as confabulation. Rut roh.)

I digress.

All stories can be broken down into one of the following seven categories:

  1. Overcoming the monster (David and Goliath)
  2. Rebirth (A Christmas Carol)
  3. Quest (Don Quixote)
  4. Journey (The Odyssey)
  5. Rags-to-Riches (Cinderella)
  6. Tragedy (Romeo and Juliet)
  7. Comedy (Much Ado About Nothing)

For a compelling argument that there are only six archetypes, read this interesting Atlantic magazine article. If you’re wondering about how a story is structured, we’ll be diving into this topic in a future post, but for now, you can watch this TEDTalk by Pixar’s founder as he shares their storytelling framework.

In my video on stories, I share the tale of Jared and his Subway diet to tie together all the elements of stickiness and combatting The Curse of Knowledge. While Jared is currently in prison, the example demonstrates all the principles we’ve been discussing.

Now You Try

Open up a draft or published post. Into what category would the story you’ve included fall? Have you included all story elements, such as a clear beginning, rising action, and strong conclusion? What changes can you make to use all the principles we’ve discussed?

I’d love to connect with you to chat about how to make your words attract your ideal clients. Schedule a FREE 60-minute breakthrough session with me.


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