What is a Story?

Kevin Allison
A free video tutorial from Kevin Allison
Head Instructor at The Story Studio
4.4 instructor rating • 2 courses • 11,785 students

Lecture description

In this lecture, you'll be shown how important it is to have a person the listener can identify with at the center of your story. Your goal is to show us that person's changing emotions.

Learn more from the full course

Intro to Storytelling: Wow Your Crowd

A practical, step-by-step guide to brainstorming on, workshopping and presenting oral stories.

02:59:33 of on-demand video • Updated July 2017

  • Become a more engaging, clear and compelling communicator.
  • Increase your charisma, using your voice, body, emotions and intelligence.
  • Entertain and make a meaningful impact on your listeners.
  • Learn how to brainstorm on the most story-worthy moments of your life.
  • Discover The 2 Essential Ingredients for any good story.
  • Include The 6 Senses in your story scenes to trigger emotional responses.
  • Master The 5 Beats of classic story structure.
  • Know how to answer the "So what?" question in your ending.
  • Acquire a workshopping and performance-honing process you can apply again and again.
  • Get tips on becoming a regular practitioner of storytelling in any community.
English [Auto] Hello and welcome to intro to storytelling this is the first lecture lecture on what is a story. And be sure to check for more ideas and activities in the supplemental materials on the your to me site. I'm Kevin Allison founder of the school the story studio at the story studio dartboard and host of risk the live show and podcast where people tell true stories they never thought they dare to share in public. Now this workshop is perfect for people who might want to tell six minute 10 minute 20 minute stories at shows like risk or the moth. But working on this kind of personal storytelling will in fact make you more skillful at communicating in any creative or social outing. As I've said we're going to start with the elementary question. What is a story. For our purposes because that word is used in different contexts quite a lot. So it's important to define a couple of things that the kinds of stories we'll be working on here should always have. You've probably read a lot of personal essays or heard a lot of standup comedy routines where the author took a thesis statement and then riffed on that idea with a series of examples that illustrate it like what's the deal with airplane food. The portions are so small and do people really like that much salt on their peanuts and of all the knots they give you. Why are they always peanuts. That's not a story. It's more like a stream of consciousness that's merely sticking to a theme. If you appear on my show rhis or on any other oral storytelling show on stage or on the radio or on line you'll want to make sure to include two essential ingredients of all stories. The first thing you need is a human at least one a story usually centers on a person. You might think oh no I wanted to tell a story about skydiving but perhaps you could reframe that idea so that your story is about how your wife became obsessed with skydiving and you just couldn't seem to change her mind about it. Now in both of those rief framings people are having felt experience people are reacting to incidents taking actions connecting with each other witnessing incidents having thoughts and feelings about these experiences all along the way. The first thing that we the listeners latch onto when hearing a story is a person to be able to relate to maybe even to sympathize with the person who is making most of the choices taking most of the actions engaging in most of the interactions we're following is called the protagonist. She's like the driver of the car and the story is like the road trip. And for most personal stories the protagonist is also the narrator. There are some exceptions where another character is doing most of the doing and the narrator is mostly observing and reacting to the more protagonist a character like that example story of how your wife became obsessed with skydiving and then you just couldn't seem to convince her otherwise. But either way we're drawn into a story first by people having felt experiences. So when you do think back on a particular series of incidents you'd like to share about ask yourself now who was I before all that went down. What was I most hopeful for at that time or most anxious about. Was there a belief or a habit or a mood or a memory that I was preoccupied with. That affected how I moved through those events. And if those events might be similar to events I've heard other people talking about before how was I different from most people. What were the voices in my head saying that were only my values talking pushing and pulling me this way and that and by the end of the experience was I even just a little bit changed did I end up seeing things from a slightly different perspective or was I maybe just in a slightly different mood. And if your wife is more the protagonist of the story and you the narrator are more of the observer and the sidekick. You can ask all those same questions about both of you. Now the second essential ingredient in a personal story was already hinted at when I mentioned your changing moods before. The second thing that listeners latch onto is an emotional through line. If the narrator and your protagonist to I'll just call the hero from now on if the hero really cares about what's happening in the story we're likely to care too. If you can illustrate how depressed you were in the beginning how frightened you were in the middle and how euphoric you were at the end. We Lister's are likely to have a satisfying emotional experience as well. Most good stories have what we call high stakes. The hero is convinced that there's something of value that might be lost or something of value that might be gained depending on how this story unfolds. If you ever attend a storytelling workshop with other students in the room you might have a class where some woman gets up and she says oh she was once stabbed by a mugger and the paramedic said she might not get to the hospital in time to live. And you sit there in class thinking oh my gosh the stakes of this woman's story are so high it's life and death. My stupid story is just about how much I wanted Barbie's dream house when I was seven years old. But when you were seven years old getting Barbie's dream house for Christmas might have meant almost as much to you as getting to the hospital fast enough was for that woman because your seven year old heart and mind didn't know of anything more precious and important than Barbie's Dream house. So show us how invested you were in getting that gift. Show us your fantasies your sleeping dreams your conversations you had with your mom and dad about it. And Santerre maybe what you remember of the TV commercial for the dream house and so on and so on. Show us your hopes and fears rising and falling throughout the story and we'll begin to care about that Barbie's Dream house. As much as you did back then in most stories the hero is in one emotional plane at the beginning and then he or she lives through some incidents and that those incidents they kind of complicate or intensify that emotion. And the hero arrives at a slightly different emotional plane at the end. So it's not just the character of the hero that we latch onto as a traveling companion to relate to during the story. It's also the shifting values and moods of that character as life throws sad or ridiculous or delightful or scary circumstances at the hero so that the hero starts really care it. That's why in lecture 2 we'll focus on brainstorming on stories about moments in your life where you really cared how things were going to turn out. Thanks for watching