Spoiler Alert: A lot.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
That, my friends, is a narrative, in a nutshell. You’ve got the introduction of your protagonist, placing him or her in context through setting, an inciting incident to kick things off, which leads to a chain of events, which gets you to your resolution. The only thing that’s missing for me (and for any nonprofit communicator) is the moral of the story. But wait:
#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
There’s your moral, right there. For nonprofit communicators, this is the place to start. Answering why this is the story you need to tell will help ensure that you’re telling the right one, for the right reason: to share something important about your organization’s values, and hopefully help your audience seen their own values reflected back to them.
Coates shares a number of important points about the mechanics of storytelling, too:
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
Following the advice in any one of these pithy missives will greatly improve your story. Taking heed of all three will lead directly to a seriously engaged audience.
And here’s one more, just because it’s so smart:
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
Stories with the former we love; those with the latter we roll our eyes at.
If you’re interested in becoming a better storyteller, why not learn from the experts?