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When Crafting Your Stories, Start At The End

The power of contrast in telling your story.


In the last few storytelling posts, I've discussed How To Find Your Story which discussed ways to find the simple stories that exist in your everyday life. I also explained in the post Seven Second Story Solution how to detect the powerful moments in our ordinary lives that build great stories.


If you haven't read those pieces, then don't worry, here is a brief recap.


Finding your stories is about discovering those simple moments in your life where something in you, or around you, changed forever. Most great stories are about transformation and change, and they resonate deeply with other people because of this. Most people can't relate to monumental adventures, such as climbing Mount Everest, but everybody can relate to the experience of making a mistake and being brave enough to admit you had screwed up. If that moment happens to take place on a mountain then great, but it's just as powerful if that realisation comes in your kitchen whilst making breakfast. That's why I call these moments the Seven Second Story Solution, because the most powerful stories focus on something that happens in no more than seven seconds.


If you can begin to articulate these moments of change, then you can learn to craft a powerful story around that.


If you find a story that you want to tell, and you know what your Seven Second Story Solution is, then, in essence, you have your ending already. The moment of realisation that you have articulated, that place where everything changed, needs to be as close to the end of the story as possible.


If we continue to use the example of admitting you are wrong and realising this and admitting your mistake, then we need to ensure that this is as close to the end of the story as possible. The whole rest of the story is building to this climax and so as soon as we have revealed the revelation we want to get out as fast as possible and leave the listener or reader with that moment still lingering in the air.


So if we have our ending, then the really good news is that we also have our beginning too, and that's because contrast is a powerful way to emphasize the story's revelation. If we are ending with being humble and admitting that we were wrong, then a great place to start the story would be at a point where we had the absolute opposite point of view. In this case, this might be a time when we were adamant that we were right, the very opposite of the ending.


If we can think of a moment, related to the events that lead to the ending, where we were completely convinced we were right, then that's where we should start the story. In the continuing example, this might have been the day before, in the office, when we felt nobody was listening to us and in order to prove how right we were we stormed out dramatically to emphasize our point. This is a great place to begin with because it shows the full transformation we have undergone by the time we have our revelation - from angrily adamant to a humble apology.


This journey of transformation, and the two contrasting points of view, also provides the reader with something to hold on to and to continue reading for. It adds stakes to the story, there is something going on and we want to know what happens.


So when it comes to telling your personal stories, finding your ending is the very best place to start. Everything else in the story must then move the journey on in some way from the starting point to that end revelation, if it doesn't do that then it is likely to be extraneous to the story, and to be brutal, it probably needs to go.


Find your end and you find your beginning too. Magic.

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