Writing your own story can be the hardest part of marketing.
That’s frustrating, because telling your story is the key to making deep engagement with your clients, showing the power of what you offer, and at the end of the day, sales.
I ran across a series of blog posts from story expert Michael Hauge that can help pull a powerful story from the random facts of your life. The posts all look at conflict as the heart of a story.
First Key: Stakes
If a story is like a a poker game, the stakes are what’s on the table for the hero to win or lose.
Hauge gives the example of Tiger Woods in the most recent Masters golf tournament. He was coming back from seven years away from competitive play, the pain of back problems, the (relative) disability of back surgery and his advanced age (for golf pros). For him and his fans, there was more than money on the table. It was life, the comeback, the second chance.
What’s on the table for the hero of your story? Whether the hero of the particular story is your client or yourself, you want to find the deepest motivation to solve the problem you solve.
What does your client stand to win or lose? Those are the stakes.
Second Key: Conflict, Not Necessarily Combat
In an early novel of mine, I thought “conflict” had to be all about people fighting with each other—whether in words or actions.
In the second post of the series, Hauge answers a question: If I’ve had a quiet life, what do I know about conflict?
A lot, it turns out.
Conflict isn’t the same as combat. Conflict is the thing that keeps your hero from achieving his or her goal. It could be internal or external. It could call forth a physical or verbal battle, or it could be a matter of just getting up and trying again. In a true-life event, a hiker fell into a mountain crevasse and got his arm so completely caught that he couldn’t get out. He ended up cutting it off with his pocket knife and climbing out to safety.
What’s stopping your hero’s success, and what inner or outer struggle will it take to overcome it? That’s conflict.
Third Key: Pain
Sometimes or for some people, the hardest story to write is your own. There’s so much that it’s hard to find the thread that will lead from a beginning to a middle to an end, that will reveal the truth you want to tell.
Hauge says, Follow the pain.
Whether in business, drama or fiction, your #1 goal in telling a story is always to take your audiences on an emotional journey by finding the conflict in every story you write.
As you look over the story of your life—or your client’s journey to healing of whatever sort—find the places where pain enters the picture. What causes it? How did your hero respond? What made a difference? You can follow the pain through an entire hero’s journey from torment to triumph.
Conflict: The Heart of Story
There are many elements to a functional story, and the different story experts often have different terms for many of them. But a story without conflict is not a story. It may be something else, a vignette or something, but not a story.
Read Michael Hauge’s blog posts for more information. He’s a savvy story coach and well worth following.