The Steller storytelling framework
I can still hear Mrs. Carlson, my third-grade teacher, saying from the front of the room. She was giving us one of the earliest writing assignments I can remember. I later wrote something about a zebra, and allegedly that notebook still exists somewhere. Who could have guessed that my third-grade composition lesson would still be with me today? And Mrs. Carlson was not wrong.
Beginning, middle, and end are the building blocks of any story, and business stories are no different. But there is a more descriptive way of approaching these three literary acts. After all, we’re not in third grade anymore.
From now on, let’s try thinking of them as normal, explosion, and new normal… Let’s take a closer look at each of these three story pieces that make up the Steller storytelling framework.
To tell a good story, one your audience will care about and invest in, you have to start off strategically by establishing the normal. The way things were before something changed. The normal is where you take a little bit of time to include the key components of a story: introduce the identifiable characters and their emotions. This is also where you include a few details that create a sense of familiarity for the audience, drawing them in. They let down their guards. They put themselves in the characters’ shoes.
Done right, throughout the process of the normal, the audience is saying to themselves, “I recognize that person. Yes, I understand what this is about. Yes, I can see how they would feel that way.” The guy on the plane who left his glasses. A couple falling in love. A young, future American president with charm who had to have that amazing French cologne. We’ll talk more about the normal throughout the next section of the book [Stories that Stick], but for now know that this is the most important part of the story. The normal is where you include the components. The normal is where you give your audience a reason to care. The normal is the part most people leave out, which is why their stories don’t stick.
Admittedly, the word explosion is a little aggressive. It implies blood or injury or fire. That is not necessarily the case in your story, though. The explosion, for our purposes, is simply the happening. It could be a big thing or a small thing, a good thing or a bad thing. Most importantly, it’s the moment things change. Perhaps it is a realization or a decision. It may be an actual event. Whatever the case, the explosion is the point in the story where things were going along as normal and then suddenly they are different. Good different, bad different, doesn’t matter. For now, remember: Normal: Things are how they are. Explosion: Something happens. New Normal: Things are different.
The third and final phase is the new normal. This is where you share with your audience what life is like now, after the explosion. You tell them what you know now, why you are wiser or stronger or how you improved (or are still trying to improve) as a result. It could be a moral. It could be when a client lived happily ever after, after using your product or service. It could include a call to action. However it comes together, the new normal is why storytelling works as a strategy to convey a point or enhance a message and not just to entertain. The new normal is what makes a story worth listening to in business.
Excerpted with permission from Stories that Stick by Kindra Hall, copyright Kindra Hall.