The other day I met up with a crisis management expert. We had a fascinating chat – not least because we ended up talking about how important story telling is in his work.
If you can’t tell a powerful story about how you’re going to get out of trouble, you’ll have big problems convincing anyone to come along with you. To tell that kind of story, there are two very important things you need – a clear structure and a strong hero.
The simplest story structure
Well, it’s three act structure, which is really just making sure that your story has a beginning, a middle and an end. But that doesn’t tell you why those three acts create such compelling stories.
A better way of understanding it is to think about the story’s hero. Each act brings a different part of their journey to life, like this:
Act 1 – hero wants to do something
Act 2 – hero can’t do something
Act 3 – hero does something
Now let’s see how that works in practice.
Learning from the druids
At the moment, I’m watching enjoyably nutty woad and weirdness epic ‘Britannia’. One of its lead characters is a rogue druid who’s resisting a Roman invasion.
His story is going like this:
Act 1 – Druid wants to protect Britain from the Romans
Act 2 – Druid can’t protect Britain from the Romans
Act 3 – Druid protects Britain from the Romans
Act 1 establishes why it’s so important for the hero to act and what will happen if they don’t. The Romans burned a village down and enslaved its menfolk as soon as they arrived. If our druid can’t stop them – exploitation and chaos!
In Act 2, you put obstacles in the hero’s path and explore how they learn how to overcome them. Our druid hero’s big obstacle is pretty obvious – he’s up against lots of heavily armed, politically savvy Romans.
And in Act 3, you explore how they get what they want and where that leaves them. That’s going to be interesting for our Druid, because of course historically the Romans did win. So I think victory might come in an unexpected way for him.
Telling your own story
And that brings us back to storytelling your way out of a crisis. That’s what our druid’s doing, with his Roman crisis – and it could help you too, when you hit your own critical moment. Think about what winning through would look like, then work back from that through your three acts to build your story of success.
That will give you a simple, powerful story to tell about what winning through looks like and how you’re going to get to it.
Oh, and there’s one last thing to add – how to be a strong hero. It’s simple – just be an active one! Don’t let things just happen to you. Make sure you’re driving the story on yourself, and then you’re sure to win out, even if that takes you somewhere you didn’t quite expect.