This post is my fifth and last in a series about organizational story writing.
- In the first post, I described the form and spoke about why organizational story writing matters.
- In the second post, I shared my approach for facilitating a listening session.
- The third post defined story writing as more than a mere marketing tool. It’s a process that leads to individual growth and organizational improvement.
- The fourth post focused on the importance of defining our purposes, audiences, and messages.
And today’s post is all about structure. Are you about to embark on an organizational story writing experience of your own? Feel free to reach out to me here or on Twitter. I’d love to talk shop with you.
There are many ways to structure a story, and while it’s tempting to dive in and just begin writing, taking a few moments to think through questions like these can ensure that the structure you choose is the best fit for your project.
Ten Questions that Will Help You Choose the Best Organizational Story Structure:
- Will my story focus on the experiences of a single subject or the experiences of many?
- What are the benefits of building a story around a single character? What are the potential drawbacks?
- What are the benefits of building a story that includes the experiences of many? What are the drawbacks?
- Will the story recount a long, harrowing journey, a series of smaller challenges, or a single, brief event?
- Does my story need to challenge the assumptions or biases of my audience members?
- Do I intend to call my audience to action?
- Is it important to reveal the diverse perspectives of those who had a shared experience?
- How much distance do I want to create between myself as the writer and the audience I hope to engage?
- How much time will I have to tell my story?
- Is it important for me to illustrate the gap between our current reality and our greater vision?
While it isn’t critical to emerge from this reflective process with hard and fast answers in hand, thinking through these questions can help you get a better feel for the story structures that might serve you best.
For instance, the monomyth structure is perfect for those who endured a long, uncertain journey that led to a significant transformation. The mountain structure that we all know and love is similar to this, but it’s far less complex, allowing you to tell a meaningful story in a shorter period of time. Plot advances faster with the mountain structure.
Perhaps you’re fairly certain that your audience maintains some serious biases that need a bit of challenging. The false start structure enables this well. Begin by telling the story that your audience expects. Work their assumptions into the exposition and rising action. Then, rip the carpet out from under their feet. Shed a bright light on the fallacies at hand before you begin again.
Maybe you want to inspire your audience by invoking a strong sense of hope or raise their levels of concern by illuminating the distance between what could be and what is. The sparkline structure works well for this.
Sometimes, it makes are more sense to frame the story as a collaborative experience. If many minds converged to achieve a powerful conclusion, this is a structure that might work for you. Perhaps the story you’re eager to tell is made up of many strands. The nested loop structure might be worth tinkering with.
Are you eager to learn more about these structures? My spin on them is a tiny bit different from Ffion Linday’s, but I encourage you to read this post and perhaps, download her free book. No, she didn’t ask me to promote her here. She doesn’t even know me, but I’m glad I found her work, and I think that you will be, too.
The graphic below provides a quick snapshot of each form and the planning tools I use with clients as they begin tinkering with different approaches. Use, adapt, and share it as you wish. More importantly, contact me if organizational story writing is a passion of yours or of interest to someone you know. I’m loving this work and eager for company. I’d love to help you frame the stories that your organization has to tell.