Essential Elements of Storytelling

GamificationThere are dozens of excellent sources of information, insights, and counsel concerning the art and science of storytelling. Later in this post, I will suggest a few. Meanwhile, I am pleased to share material provided by Karl Kappa, Lucas Blair, and Rich Mesh in their recently published book, The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook: Ideas into Practice (Wiley 2014). These are the essential elements of storytelling on which they focus:

1. Engage the heart as well as the mind: “Learning is emotional so don’t be afraid to get under people’s skins.” Challenge them to address issues anchored in human experience.

2. Focus on what makes the new behavior challenging: “Don’t shy away from the tough stuff.” Challenges and conflicts always attract attention.

3. Show, don’t tell: “Instead of writing ‘he was nervous,’ show your character’s behavior and let your audience conclude that he’s nervous.” What people do “says” so much more than what they say.

4. Remember that there’s more to storytelling than writing: If possible, “tell your story with audio, video, graphics, and animation.” I also use recordings (e.g. President Reagan’s address after the Challenger tragedy) and archival photographs to illustrate key points.

5. Don’t feel you have to cover everything in the story; “Not every aspect of learning works well with story telling: “Learning stories work best when they are focused on those parts of the learning process that are complex or difficult.”

6. Good stories demonstrate actions and consequences: “Your learners will be more engaged if you create a sense of anticipation, a driving desire to know what happens next.”

7. Don’t lose sight of the basics: “Good stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end” with conflict, resolution, and conclusion. Make certain that those in your audience have a feeling that they have shared a journey with the characters in the story.

For addition sources, I highly recommend these three:

The Story Factor (2nd Revised Edition)
Annette Simmons

The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling : Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative
Stephen Denning

Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire
Paul Smith

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