Exercising A Whole New Mind: Story

photo courtesy of Nufkin

photo courtesy of Nufkin

The second of Dan Pink’s six right brain senses is Story.

Chip and dan Heath convinced me of the importance and power of Story in Made to Stick which I thoroughly recommend as a handbook for creating communication people will remember.  I’m not sure if it is because Pink was a speechwriter and is now a writer, but I find these exercises less attractive.

What’s your 50-word story? Some of the other ideas I’m not personally motivated to try: enlist in StoryCorps, tape record a friend or relative’s story, got to a storytelling festival, subscribe to OneStory, try telling a digital story, read texts on storytelling.  There are a few fun ideas here though:

  • Write a mini saga: 50 words long on your life or something that happened. Henry Olson introduced me to this great quote from Blaise Pascal: “I am sorry for the length of my letter, but I had not the time to write a short one.” Editing 2000 words down to 1000 is actually more time consuming than writing the 2000 words.  50 words really focuses your attention on just what’s important
  • Riff on opening lines: at a party, throw a bunch of opening lines from books into a bowl and draw cars and construct stories from them.  I’ve played a very fun variant where one person reads the description on the back of a book, then writes down the first sentence.  Everyone else makes up a first sentence.  The real and made up lines are thrown into a bowl, read out loud, and you have to guess which is the real one.  Very amusing.
  • Play Photo Finish: similar but show pictures and have people come up with a story.
  • “Who Are These People?”: look at people in public and try to make up a life story for them.

If you want to learn how to write more memorable stories, go with the Heath brothers’ advice, if you want to learn how to write well, then Pink’s suggestions are useful.  I’m surprised he doesn’t mention blogs or writer’s festivals.

Tomorrow we look at symphony.  Fortunately its not just about music.


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