Guidelines for Crafting Story
So who’s your Story about?
I generally feel a wee bit disoriented right after shaping a book proposal.
What’s it worth? I wondered. What if my agent rejects it? What if this is all a fool’s errand? What have I done with my life? Okay, I don’t go quite that far.
Last time this happened, my six-year-old peeked in my study. She wanted to show me her outfit – a summer skirt and a short-sleever atop a long-sleever.
“I just couldn’t wait any longer to wear summer clothes,” she said as she twirled around the study. And at that moment, I remembered again why I’m writing this book, why I’m building Tracking Wonder, why I utterly adore engaging readers.
After years of research and my own share of unbidden surprises, I vowed five years ago to keep tracking wonder so I could help create a world where that little girl could not wait to become a grown up (because the prospect would look so appealing!) and where grown ups could and must wonder again and again.
That’s my vow. That’s my mission. That’s part of the Story of Tracking Wonder.
I know tracking wonder is a path that works for grown-up business artists. It’s a powerful antidote to the Get-Things-Done culture, the Lean Mean Hip culture, and the Solo Genius Just-One-Thing Cult of Mastery.
And I know my book is a compact, impactful way to distribute that medicine.
I have my share of ugly moments when I am distraught and doubtful of my endeavors, but I must admit that 85% of the time or greater I am grateful for everything – the good, the bad, the downright horrifyingly hard.
But I tell you this story and Story because of you, not me.
The larger Story of your business or brand might or might not focus on you personally. If your brand is tied to your personality, maybe. But maybe not. If you are a memoirist, yes.
But there’s an increasing assumption in the blogosphere and among some advisors that you must be vulnerable, transparent, and personal with your audiences in order to establish rapport with them.
I think that’s a pretty faulty assumption to generalize and can make for faulty and misleading advise.
In our upcoming Your Captivating Book author’s mentorship program, these questions come up a lot. So, here are a few guidelines I want to offer – and offer to wide open conversation, mind you. So, fire away your replies to me in the comments or via email!
There’s a Cult of Vulnerability and a Tyranny of Authenticity.
Be cautious of anyone advising you to be more “vulnerable” or “authentic” in your copy or content. What do they mean by those words? How does it serve your signature way of captivating and elevating? Does that approach serve your greater goals and mission? Is your larger Story about you or about the people you serve?
If you own a business or are trying to build one, your #1 job may be to elicit trust. How is your Story doing that?
“Authenticity” stems from the Greek word authentes,“one who acts upon the voice of her own authority.”“Authenticity” also is related to having “authority” over your respective craft.
It might or might not have to do with your divulging your personal conflicts with your lover or children last week.
BTW, Brene Brown’s work cracked open this fellow Texan’s heart again. But even she notes that being vulnerable does not equate to TMI. Discretion counts.
Who’s Your Story’s Hero?
Certainly, we write and draft for ourselves. Ultimately if an author does her job of rewriting and designing a Story, then she knows that the real hero is the reader who has a moving experience by reading a memoir.
Andre Dubus III’s Townie and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Slash Coleman’s The Bohemian Love Diaries each moved me to greater realizations about life, relationships, and death. In a strange way, I was the hero!
So, too, in personality-based brands and service provider brands, your signature personality is a distinct part of what attracts people to you and your Story.
Maybe you’re a writer or writing teacher. What does your writing, your blog, your video set, your workshops do for your Patch of the Planet? They are your Story’s Hero.
What are you devoted to – for them?
Tell Me Your Story So I can See Myself.
You have a moving experience in film, art, poetry – heck, an artful advertisement – because something is awakened in you. When you tell your audience a revealing story about yourself – in a talk or in your copy – consider how you are helping someone see herself in you.
That mirroring gets to the heart of why our ancestors landed on the marvelous invention of story in the first place – to help us see how we can navigate this world.
If you’re working through a particular problem in your business or creative venture that your audience shares, then that’s a great opportunity to get downright personal and intimate.
What’s the Problem?
In a book proposal, you might not want to launch into why you think your book’s provocative premise is brilliant. Somewhere in the Overview, I suggest you identify, frame, and articulate what’s the prevailing problem your premise is addressing. Even if you’re not writing a proposal, think about this for your website, your offers, whatever you claim your Story is “About.” Why?
Because the “problem” feature answers the inevitable question for any book, start-up, service, product, program, or workshop: A Miles Davis “So what?”
That problem might reside in your audience’s hearts and minds. It might reside in the cultural messages they’re receiving that you think contribute to their suffering. It might reside in problems you perceive within your field that you think are misleading them. It might be all of the above. If you can claim what problems you boldly stand up to, then your premise might have more weight and urgency.
Do you know what this kind of problem-tracking requires? Deep imagination and empathy. You have to snap out of your own point of view and crawl into the skin (as Atticus Finch might say) of your Patch of the Planet – your real heroes.
A Story for the Hearing-Impaired Hero
One of our program alumni Peggy Acott shared this Hero Story with us from Samsung from a couple of years ago. It epitomizes all that I’m sharing with you here.
Do you feel how Story moves us? How can you not be moved by this advertisement that shows even big companies are doing business-as-unusual?
You can, too, and you don’t need a 5-figure website and corporate resources to do so. You possess innately the technology of the soul: Story.
As for you, well, you are my Hero, plain and simple. I know that although you have yearnings to master this one brief creative life, you also have doubts and dark nights of despair.
Let’s travel this road together. No one needs to write their book alone. Stay tuned for information about early access to my author’s mentorship program Your Captivating Book.
I know you’re juggling bosses or employees, clients and children and aging parents. And I utterly admire the way you continue to keep living your quest, keep finessing what you make and how you make a right livelihood, and how you own the Story that burns inside you.