Success factors of Storytelling (PART 1): Start with the “WHY”

The art of storytelling is not new.

But some do not understand why storytelling is necessary when reporting the mere facts of something will do. We see this happening all the time, especially in email correspondences in the workplace. As work pace increases, there is greater need for information to be concise, precise, succinct and brief – so everything else is cut off except for the cold, hard facts. However, this also means that all emotions – including positive ones – are cut off too. There are some who will even advise on eliminating all kinds of formality, such as “Good day”, “Have a nice day” etc. Saving one’s time and effort are the reasons for the advice. But unknown to them, emotional detachment and loss of interpersonal rapport with others are the price we pay. Taking some time to tell others the reasons (which is the “why”) for requesting or doing something may at times be time-consuming and tedious but what one gets back in return is mutual understanding and respect. And when the “why” is complemented with a narrative story when time permits, the positive emotional impact on others can be extremely powerful and at times – life-changing.

Similarly, when parents educate their children, they are often direct and to the point. “Do not watch TV while eating”, “be quiet when you are studying”, “do not come home late tonight” and “greet your elders” are some of the basic social etiquette that are commonly taught to the kids. However, because the children do not understand the “whys” behind the “hows”, they often refuse to obey or find the rules too ridiculous to even abide by them. “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” is a great read to inspire oneself to explore and understand why the understanding and acceptance of the “why” behind our every actions in all aspects of our lives are important. We should question if every aspect of our inner motivation for doing things are positive for others and to do so, we need to investigate the “why” of our everyday lives. More importantly, we should encourage and motivate a child to explore the “whys” of his or her every action. And using stories is among the best ways to achieve this.

The same goes for short story or novel writing. Why would reader want to read a short story or novel? What would attract reader to a story? What elements of a story would readers be interested in? Other than the first question, we will address the second and third questions in subsequent posts.

A lot of writers commit the fallacy of engaging the “what” instead of the “why” first – unaware of the fact that it’s the “why” that precedes the “what”. If the readers do not understand the reason for reading the story, why would they be interested in the types of literary devices used in constructing the story? Think about this.

Therefore, to start a story, all writers should ask themselves this questions before penning the story, starting with the “why” before progressing to the “who”, ‘what”, “when”, “where” and “how”:

WHY would I want to write this story? 

WHAT do I want readers to take away by reading this story?

HOW would I want my story to reach out to my readers?

WHERE would the setting in which the story takes place be in?

WHO would be great characters to include in the story?  

WHEN would be a great time period to set the stage for the story?

Out of the six questions above, the first question is the most important. Answering the first question will not only provide one with the intrinsic motivation to continue writing the story, it will also establish a basic reference point for one to refer back consistently when writing the story.

So, the “why” should be connected with an inner aspect of a writer, emanating from his or her inner essence and through this connection, what resides in the inner psyche should in turn manifest externally in the form of stories. All great stories in the world probably originate from this source.

What great stories do you have to tell the world?

Let’s continue here.

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