5 Deadly Sins Of Storytelling: How to tell stories that don't suck
Updated: Sep 24
I'm scared of my window cleaner
Every month, my wife and I receive a 45-minute visit from our friendly window cleaner, Roger.
(Or so I call him for the purposes of today's newsletter).
See, every single time Roger rings our doorbell, I secretly want to run into my bedroom, hide and pretend nobody's in.
Nope, he's not Freddy Krueger.
But he is a criminal storyteller.
Meaning, if I casually open the door and ask him the following question:
"Roger, great to see you, how was your weekend?"
I'll probably be late for every single meeting I have that day.
Because he tells stories so long, I regularly find myself dreaming up an exit strategy every time we chat.
I feel like a bad human being over here, haha...
But, it's the truth dammit!
Yes, I'm calling Roger out, but it's all for a higher purpose.
My intention with today's release is to unlock 5 deadly sins of storytelling so you don't end up being the "Roger" of your office, company or even worse... industry.
Let's get into it.
What's it costing ya?
See, here's what most people miss...
You're already a storyteller.
The question is:
Are you a good one?
Every day you share, exchange and extract stories from those around you.
But, if you suck, it can cost you:
The list goes on...
What I'm trying to say is this:
The stakes are high.
If you're unintentional about the stories you tell (both to yourself and others), you'll forever struggle with getting what you deserve.
I don't want that for you.
Let this be your wake-up call.
Deadly Sin 1: You don't grab attention
"Let me tell you a story..."
When somebody starts a presentation, meeting or conversation with those 6 harmless words...
People mentally switch off, roll their eyes and brace themselves for a 12-minute monologue.
Remember, attention is the modern-day currency and an opener like that doesn't cut it.
You need to learn how to get somebody's attention, keep it and earn the opportunity to teach them something of value.
But it all begins with GETTING attention.
A pattern interrupting "hook" that crushes predictability and sparks curiosity.
People lean in and are anxious to learn more.
P.S. Whether it's these 6 words, verbal vomiting your employment history or simply giving too much context, the solution is the same... start with a hook.
Deadly Sin 2: You have the wrong North Star
A silent mentor once taught me this:
"...your story isn't designed to give you significance, it's designed to give your audience significance."
Let that sink in.
Stories should serve the people you want to impact.
The moment it becomes about YOU and your audience smells a narrative that's driven by ego, it's game over.
Now, that doesn't mean you can't be the main character of your story...
Of course, you can!
But remember, the goal is for your audience to see themselves in your pains, desires and transformation.
So they can become the hero of their story.
Remember, the goal is to evoke emotion, shift perspectives and ignite change in your audience's life.
Deadly Sin 3: No pain, no gain
Ever seen a Hollywood movie without a villain?
I mean, imagine the movie Dark Knight without The Joker...
It wouldn't be the same, right?
See, every good hero needs a villain...
Somebody who exposes and agitates their weakness.
Somebody who forces them to make difficult choices.
And somebody who poses a challenge so big, that they have no choice but to transform themselves into the person they need to become.
Ying and yang my friend, ying and yang.
In everyday storytelling, the villain doesn't have to be something life-altering or "devastating".
It can be something small, yet relatable that's simply preventing your main character from getting to the promised land.
You get my drift!
A story without a villain is like nachos without cheese...
It's just weird.
Deadly Sin 4: No story arc
Taking it back to our good friend Roger, one of the problems is...
His stories never feel like a set of sequential events.
Instead, they feel rushed and muddled.
The moment your story is hard to follow, you've lost your audience.
(Unless you're Christopher Nolan who directed the film Inception...man, I still don't get that movie lol...I digress).
For the purposes of pocket stories to use in everyday life, try the following story framework:
Set the scene
Introduce the villain
Showcase an 'aha moment'
Unveil a new normal
Deadly Sin 5: No purpose
Stories without purpose can feel like consuming, empty calories, to an audience.
Your narrative needs a purpose.
Think about the BIG PROBLEM you want your story to solve for your audience.
Now, think about the ROOT CAUSE of their problem.
Now ensure the core message of your story is tied into the root cause of their problem.
Otherwise, your message won't be sticky, memorable and more importantly...
Evoke emotion, change minds and inspire action.
In reality, the number of deadly sins is countless.
However, today's release should hit you with some insights and self-awareness to get the ball rolling.
Remember, we aren't looking for groundbreaking shifts...
Just actionable 1% tweaks.
I'll see ya next week homie!
P.S. Enjoy the content? Share the below with your leader...
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