Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Feature: 5 Things to Remember When Telling Your Story

A couple weeks ago I ran into this funny girl's blog. She is both a speaker and a writer and the content of her blog captured me. So I went out on a little limb [well, it was a big limb] and emailed her asking if she'd ever be interested in guest posting on the JM blog. I told her we love stories here and that my heart is for people to learn to tell their own stories of victory, defeat, sorrow and survival. She responded with a great big "YES!" 

So readers, I am honored to introduce you to my new friend Natalie

Hello JM Readers,

Remember back in school when the assignment was to read a biography or some other sort of non-fiction? Yeah, we all sighed and wanted to moan, “Boorrring!” Maybe not all of us, but I’m betting there were plenty. Why? Because maybe they were boring! But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Writing a non-fiction, say, your story, can be as intriguing as the latest fiction on the shelf.

When it comes to “our” story, there can be a lot of issues; too long, too detailed, too crazy. Let me give you five things to remember when beginning to put your story out there.

**These steps don't necessarily apply to book writing. More short story, blogging, and sharing. 

#1 Keep it Simple
Blogs are meant to be short, easy to ready, and intriguing. I’ve been to many blogs, and simply based on how long the entry was I moved along. If your story is pretty long (which most of ours are) consider breaking it up into 3-5 entries. Always keep the reader coming back for more at the end of your post.

For speaking, if you are doing an introduction on yourself, your mini-story should not exceed 5 min. If your entire message is about you, then you can use the next four steps as well.

Now, how to keep that post interesting…

#2 Audience Take Away
Ever been caught in a situation where the person talking has no point? Did you want to look at them and say, “And your point is….?” That is exactly what you do not want your audience to say! That’s why you need to think about  your audience take-away. What’s the point? What do you want them to ponder about your story?

Is it that you want them to steer clear of the mistakes you made? Do you want them to follow your brilliant footsteps of success? Maybe you want them to hear how you “made it”, or conquered something. What would you want someone to take away with them if you only had three minutes to say it? That, what you would say in three minutes or less, is your audience take-away.

#3 Skip the Details
My friend and I lovingly joke about how her mom, when telling a story, adds details that have no significance to the topic. She’ll debate with herself about what day she  got her hair done. “It was Tuesday. No, it was Monday because I went to the grocery story, then I got my hair done, and that’s where I ran into Sally who told me about the sale at the shoe store.” See. All we need to know is where the sale is! Sometimes details can get you hung up on things that don’t really matter.

In order to make sure you are not adding in too many unnecessary details, always outline your story, take the time to edit it, and then write it again. In fact, give it to someone and have him or her read it through and mark out what they found to be unnecessary, helping you filter the details.

You might find that although we love knowing you lived in a Chicago suburb, we don’t really need to know that the street was right next to the old lady with the crazy dog, unless the lady has something to do with your story. There is a difference between adding some flavor, some creative backdrop to your story, and mudding it up with too many details. Remember, get to the point.

#4 Manage Your Mission
Your story has an end. At least the story you want to tell does. Because of this, your story telling has a mission. This is closely related to your audience take-away, but this is for you and you alone. Having a mission with your story will help not only manage details, but how you present your story. Let me give you an example.

My audience take-away for my personal story is that they understand grace. I have a fabulous, hilarious story about me falling in a trashcan. By itself, it’s a winner of a story. But, coupled with a dramatic shift about how I threw myself in the trash emotionally and spiritually, it is a story with a mission leaving my audience with not only a visual, but also resounding spiritual implications.

What can you weave in your story that will direct your mission? What stories outside of your chronological event timeline can you interject to emphasize your audience take-away? Having take-away is good, but it must be guided by your managing the entire story.

#5 Be You
There is no other person on the planet with your story. No one. No one has your emotions, your successes, your failures, your pain or your joys. Only you can tell your story. Take the opportunity to tell it well. Be the fiction we want to read! J


-Natalie Witcher

For more of Natalie's writing go here
^^^Opinions, two-cents, questions and ramblings are welcome. And go above. Go ahead. Try it.

Reader Faves.