The 3 Ingredients of Small Stories

, | Colin Dawson

We include stories in our training with Modlettes for many reasons:

  • Stories make the tips and lessons we share more memorable, they help us, the designers, grow our authority and be recognised for our expertise.
  • Stories add credibility to our learning objectives; they help build trust as stories can demonstrate how others have benefited from the learning
  • Stories can help inspire change by letting our learners imagine a different way of life so they’ll be eager to follow our teachings
  • Stories are entertaining; they add clarity and breathe life into abstract trends; they add personality to our writing so our content stands out.

Small stories are used in training programmes.  These stories are usually between 100 and 250 words, but that’s not a strict boundary.

What makes a small story compelling?

The 3 essential elements of stores:

  1. A story is specific

It’s usually about a specific person doing something specific at a specific time in a specific place. For instances, discussing the trends of women and girls playing rugby is abstract.  But the story of how one girl called Georgie couldn’t find a local rugby team to play with breaths life into that trend.

Stories transfer us to a different place, helping us picture someone else’s life.  They help us see what a trend actually means in practice.

As we’ll see, specificity also means using specific details in your story so it feels real or at least realistic.  The story of the rugby girl becomes more realistic when I tell you about the local rugby coach, a man with 3 daughters . . . none of them wanting to play rugby.  When this coach hears about Georgie, he invites her to play on the boy’s team.

So, specificity helps learners experience your story, making it feel more realistic.

2. A story narrates a series of actions

Relating a sequence of actions is key to storytelling, and it creates a sense of drama, making learners curious to know what’ll happen next.  The same happens in a rugby match.  A player has the ball and is running for the try line.  We don’t know whether she’ll score a try.  There’s drama as we wait to see what happens, and of course, we’ll celebrate when she scores.

Relating a series of actions by a specific person makes a story compelling.

3. There’s a purpose

In training there’s always a purpose for telling a story.

In a tutorial, you may tell a story to explain a lesson.  Once you know the purpose of your story, it becomes easier to be concise and compelling.

There’s magic in stories because stories allow you to transport your learners momentarily to a different world by sharing what happened to a specific person and what happened next.

 But storytelling isn’t magic.  As you’ll learn you don’t need any special storytelling talent to write compelling small stories.

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