Public Narrative Part II: Your Journey

Part I of this tutorial focused on developing motivating language. In Part II we will use motivating language to invite our audience to join us on a narrative journey.

The Challenge, Choice & Outcome Structure

Simple as it sounds, memorable stories always begin with someone facing a challenge, making a choice about how to overcome it and then connecting that choice to a directly related outcome.

1560344810_226f00c934_oExample: David & Goliath. David, a small shepherd boy, was challenged to a fight to the death by Goliath, the largest and strongest warrior in the Philistine army. David knew he could not defeat Goliath by conventional means—instead of being paralyzed by self doubt or fear, he chose to use an unconventional weapon: the slingshot. He passionately prepared and when it came for battle he was ready. As a result, he was able to fling a single rock and land lethal blow to Goliath almost instantly. (Photo via Flickr)

Here is how this works:

  • The challenge reminds us of demotivating emotions that we have all experienced. At the beginning of the story David feels overwhelmed by an insurmountable challenge.
  • Choice is important because, even though we can’t choose our emotions, we can choose our actions. And actions influence emotion and change how we feel.
  • By inserting choice into the narrative, we are inviting our audience to imagine themselves taking a concrete emotion which positively invigorates their emotions.
  • The outcome reinforces the choice—and actively endorses it to your audience: I tried X. It changed my life. You should try it too!
Do Don’t
  • Tell your personal story using rich first person nouns like I and my.
  • Reinforce community perceptions, attitudes and values.
  • Make your story values oriented and emotionally honest.
  • Assume your audience is on your side and wants to take action.
  • Give credit where credit is due—graciously mention relevant names.
  • Invite your audience to take action and thank them for their ongoing support.
  • Try to pass someone else’s story off as being your own.
  • Get into a fight—focus on motivating not converting.
  • Recite lists of facts or statistics or attempt to prove how smart you are.
  • Don’t try to convince your audience that an obvious problem is a problem.
  • Don’t name drop or treat your story as history lesson.
  • Apologize for asking your audience to take action.

Once you begin to think about your story–or the story of your movement–in terms of challenge, choice and outcome, you can begin asking probing question about your audience and supporters like:

  • What choices are you asking your community to make?
  • What possibilities exist whether your successful or not?
  • What have you heard when you’ve gone out and engaged the broader community?
  • What values are most associated with your work?
  • What emotions has your group felt?
  • What choices or sacrifices have group members made?

In Part III we will turn challenge, choice and outcome into a bridge connecting beliefs to committed actions.

  1. Learn about motivating language
  2. Learn how to structure a captivating public narrative
  3. Learn how to ask for commitments
  4. Learn how to turn our public narratives into a malleable suite of stories ideal for any situation