Three Simple Ingredients for Successful Stories

Photo by Mateusz Stachowski
Photo by Mateusz Stachowski

Stories can do amazing things for you. Telling the right story can help you nail a job interview, win over a customer, rally a team, motivate employees and many other things.

But what exactly is a story?

A colleague of mine went searching for a definition of story for a book he was writing. He found 82 different definitions, from the complex to the simple. The one he settled on is basically what I was taught in writing classes at Chicago’s Second City training center: it’s a character, in pursuit of a goal, in the face of some challenge or obstacle.

In this article I wrote for PR Tactics, I break down the process for finding and crafting good stories. I define the three indispensable elements of story, identify examples of this structure in literature, TV, movies and real life, and lay out a simple process for finding stories in your own organization:

What are the organization’s goals? Quality? Cost containment? Customer service?

What are the impediments to those goals? Entrenched bureaucracy? Outdated technology? Poor communication?

Who are the people (the characters) dealing with those challenges and how do they overcome them?

You can also use this formula to tell your own personal story. If you’ve got a job interview, new business meeting or networking event, think about your strengths, the challenges your potential employer or customer faces, and how you’ve helped others overcome those issues in the past.

You can read the whole story here, including the super-secret ingredient that makes a good story great.

The PR Tactics article is an expansion of the ideas in an earlier post on this blog.

5 thoughts on “Three Simple Ingredients for Successful Stories

  1. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Over the past year, I have spent many hours studying “stories” and their importance to the human existence. Through it all, stories touch all of our lives from birth to death. We encounter stories everyday as does everyone amongst every culture around the world, but we are so accustomed to our stories we often fail to recognize them and their importance.
    I enjoyed Rob’s explanation stories. His three simple ingredients, as he points out, can be applied to the individual as well as the corporation.
    Enjoy, and take time to consciously recognize the stories that make up your world.

  2. Thanks again for reblogging! Second City was great training for me in learning story structure and being able to apply it. I think stories are both more complex and simpler than people think!

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