Character Building/Story Telling

June 13, 2016
#Beginner #story telling #presentation skills #Social Engineering #Manipulation #Persuasion #status |
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Please read the other posts in this series first.


Let's move on to character building through story telling.

Story Telling

Story telling is an ancient and inherent part of of human interaction that likely dates back as far as spoken language itself (which makes it ripe for abuse). Going back to the first post in this series we even have an "inner story" or internal narrative we tell ourselves about our own life that shapes how we view reality. Effective story telling has also been scientifically proven to have a positive effect on appearances and perceived status (think "most interesting man in the world" effect). At the end of the day this is how most "good/successful" presentations, sales pitches, ted talks and the like tend to format themselves.

I saw Kindra Hall speak once and one of her main points boiled storytelling down to a simple 3 step formula (paraphrasing):

situation -> explosion/contrast -> return/change.

This is a great ELI5 which really drives home the focus on creating contrast with that explosion but I also recommend reading Dan Harmon's Story Telling Series if you haven't already. I'll cover just enough to get us going either way.

Fig 1


Fig 2


The first image talks about the natural cycle/rhythm of life that we are trying to "tap into" while the second figure deals with "essential plot points/story flow". These circles are essentially the same so imagine figure 2 placed over top of figure 1. A "good story" requires a trip into both of these realms.

The top half (1,2, and 8) respectively deal with having a character/idea (1), having a need/desire for change or noticing a problem (2), and then ultimately returning to the "familiar" while bringing change back with you (8). The bottom half (4, 5, and 6) respectively deal with having a road of trials or challenges (4), "meeting the goddess" (5) aka finding the desired/needed object, and "meet your maker" (6) aka an antagonist or problem to overcome.

The dividers (3 and 7) deal with crossing those thresholds properly. To quote Dan:


3 - Crossing the Threshold (unfamiliar situation)

"It doesn't matter how small or large the scope of your story is, what matters is the amount of contrast between these worlds. In our story about the man changing his tire in the rain, up until now, he wasn't changing a tire. He was inside a dry car. Now, he opens his car door and steps into the pouring rain. The adventure, regardless of its size or subtlety, has begun."

7- Bringing it Home (road of returning to the familiar)

"The denizens of the deep can't have people sauntering out of the basement any more than the people upstairs wanted you going down there in the first place. The natives of the conscious and unconscious worlds justify their actions however they want, but in the grand scheme, their goal is to keep the two worlds separate, which includes keeping people from seeing one and living to tell about it.

In an anecdote about having to change a flat tire in the rain, this could be the character getting back into his car."

Another interesting point:

"As you might expect with a circular model like this, there is a lot of symmetry going on, and on the journey back upward, we're going to be doing a lot of referencing to the journey downward.... Just as (1) and (5) are very maternal, feminine, vulnerable moments, (2) and (6) are very paternal, masculine, active moments, regardless of the protagonist's gender."


A few other people have picked up on this inherent formula/format as well and given funny talks about it. Seeing it in action gives a better feel for the body language/tone of voice contrasts while "crossing the thresholds" and how to really exploit this natural rhythm to the maximum.


First link - Ted talk about "nothing":

Step 1 - "Introduction", 0:19 - 1:00. "Nothing" in this case.
Step 2/3 - "Something isn't right" and "Crossing the threshold/show contrast", 1:00 - 2:00. Speaker likely uses the "question" and perhaps anecdote to outline "what's wrong". Anecdote can also help transition and then his manner gets "intellectual" instead of personal/relaxed/joking.
Step 4/5/6 - "Road of trials", "the goddess" and "the maker", 2:00 - 4:44. The "meat" of the argument/idea/presentation. Facts, graphs, numbers, building an argument etc all meant to show that the presenter has done their homework, to persuade you that this idea is "your goddess", and to alleviate your doubt/disbelief aka "the maker".
Step 7 - "Road of return" and building contrast, 4:44 - 5:32. Building tension and then slowing down, "building to a satisfying conclusion" and "building to a moment" as the speaker puts it.
Step 8 - "return with change", 5:32 - end. "I'd like you to think about what you heard at beginning and what you hear now. It was nothing and is still nothing". Like watching Seinfeld nothing was said but something has changed, an idea was planted in the meantime and the speaker has accomplished their goal.


Second link - Ted "Thought Leader" talk:

Step 1 - "Introduction", 0:07 - 0:40. "thought leader", good with tech etc.
Step 2/3 - "Something isn't right" and "Crossing the threshold/show contrast", 0:40 - 2:42. Speaker returns to center of stage, uses anecdote and posing a question to raise issue of something being wrong and cross threshold. Also changes tone/speed of voice and tells "unremarkable story" directly before road of trials which helps show vulnerability and generate empathy/bond with crowd.
Step 4/5/6 - "Road of trials", "the goddess" and "the maker", 2:47 - 3:08. The "meat" of the argument/idea/presentation. Facts, graphs, numbers all meant to show that the presenter has done their homework, to persuade you that this idea is "your goddess", and to alleviate your doubt/disbelief aka "the maker".
Step 7 - "Road of return" 3:08 - 3:20. Uses question to transition - "what if we all agreed?"
Step 8 - "return with change", 3:20 - end. Returns to image from beginning and uses "that's a world worth living in" to highlight change and "seal the deal". Returns to center of stage.


So, how else do we use this? The obvious way is to improve your "scripted" anecdotes/story telling for parties, work gatherings/conventions, interviews etc. "Tell us about yourself" in interviews is a great place to tell a few stories that build up your "character" in their head.

Keep three things in mind here:

  1. You want stories that will build a profile of your desired "character" in other people's minds.

    Ex: If you are pretending to be a "good person" doing charity work is great cover.

  2. You want stories that provide benefits to others or that otherwise encourage active participation/belief.

    Ex: A funny story that portrays someone they dislike (or maybe even like) in an embarrassing or socially taboo way for the gossip mill.

  3. Use detail but don't be a novelist - detail can help them "create" the scene in their head hence making them more invested in the story.

    Ex: "This one time back in gradeschool we had just gotten back from lunch and recess, my two favorite parts of the day, and I just did NOT want to sit in those old, uncomfortable wooden table/desk chair hybrids... You guys know the kind, right?"

    They are likely now envisioning those desks and maybe even some of their own grade-school memories.

You definitely want to have a few "go-to" story scripts for different situations and personality types. As we'll see mentioned in the next post on method acting you need to be aware of not only where you are in the cycle but also where others around you are; this includes parts they play both in their own version AND your version of the story.

Short business example:

Say you are an up-and-coming entrepreneur with a great new idea to sell potential investors. You start off at 1 by introducing yourself/the product, 2 goes into the problem or untapped market you noticed, 3 "kicks things off" and turns from personable to intellectual (anecdotes are great 1-3), 4 outlines your "road of trials" to show you can get the job done and what you learned from your struggles along the way, and 5 presents the idea/product as "their goddess" aka just what they need to get a healthy ROI.

If there is a nay-sayer or skeptic in the group they are likely your "maker" (6) while you are being viewed as their maker. Your "maker" could also be a volatile, untapped, or otherwise risky market/deal so try to address their concerns and underplay the risk or show you've accounted for it. You should also try moving yourself out of the "maker" position with small, consistent agreements/concessions as seen in How to Win Friends/Influence People. Another way around this may be Blair Warren's one sentence persuasion which can be summed up as "encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions and help them throw rocks at their enemies".

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June 13, 2016
#Beginner #story telling #presentation skills #Social Engineering #Manipulation #Persuasion #status |
| | Share on Google+