I designed the StoryHow™ PitchDeck to help convert ideas, messages, and presentations into stories. But what if we turned the process around and used it to deconstruct an existing one? Watch this 38-second video and then we’ll use the StoryHow™ method to break it down.

 

Stories consist of three components: roles, events, and influences. This little story has three roles, eight events, and a slew of influences.

Roles:

  • Boy in a sports car
  • Girl passenger in the sports car
  • Man in a muscle car

Events:

  • The sports car pulls next to the muscle car
  • The boy revs his engine
  • The man ignores
  • The boy flips the bird
  • The girl smiles
  • The man flashes his badge
  • The girl laughs then winks
  • The cop pauses then pulls away slowly

Roles and events reveal the facts of a story, but research suggests that audiences are most interested in the motivations of the characters. So, let’s take a closer look at the influences affecting each event.

The sports car pulls next to the muscle car

A sports car enters the frame with two people. It pulls next to a muscle car that contains a single occupant. What can you tell me about the characters?

The boy: Did you assume that the boy is from a wealthy family? Such an assumption would be consistent with the type of car that he’s driving and the way that he’s dressed. What about his personality? Did you think he was cocky, arrogant, or just being a jerk?

The girl: What’s the girl’s relationship to the boy? Sister? Girlfriend? Based on the situation and information provided, did you assume that she was his girlfriend?

The man: Did you make any assumptions about the man? Perhaps you thought that he was a working-class guy? What about his marital status? Since he’s in a muscle car instead of a minivan, perhaps you assumed that he’s single? What about his age? Since he’s not old enough to be experiencing a midlife crisis, perhaps you thought of him as a “car enthusiast” who does his own mechanic work?

Humans make assumptions. It’s in our nature to interpret the world around us. We can’t help it. So, if you made any of the assumptions listed above, be mindful of the fact that you fabricated each one based upon your prior knowledge of similar situations. In other words, your Neural Story Net manufactured implicit “facts” to augment the explicit ones.

Let’s continue with our implied facts.

The boy revs his engine

Why did the boy rev his engine? Was he just being a jerk? Perhaps he believed that his light Porsche could outrun the man’s heavy Camaro? Maybe he was bluffing? Either way, audiences understand that Vroom! Vroom! is the colloquial sign for “Hey, you wanna race?”

The man ignores

Why did the man ignore the challenge? Perhaps you assumed that he has the wisdom to know better than to street race?

The boy flips the bird

Why did the boy use such an inflammatory gesture? Was he trying to goad the man’s inner caveman into reacting instinctively?

The girl smiles

Why did the girl smile at the cop? Perhaps she knows that nothing threatens the male ego more than a  challenge while in the presence of a pretty woman? Or, maybe she’s sending a message, “So, what are you gonna do, big fella?”

The man flashes his badge

Why did the man show his badge instead of defending his honor (and peeling out) or eating his pride (by letting the punk win)? Was it to make a point? Embarrass the boy in front of his girlfriend? Give him a fair warning?

The girl laughs then winks

Did the girl’s laugh add insult to the boy’s already injured ego? And why did she wink at the man? Was it a private communication of her approval or another message, “So, what are you gonna do now, big fella?”

The cop pauses then pulls away slowly

The cop paused before his slow departure. What was he doing? Contemplating his options to issue a warning, write a ticket, or impound the boy’s car? Or, maybe he remembered the last time he did something stupid to impress a girl?

Finally, what did he accomplish at the end of the story? Did he score a double goal, essentially teaching the boy a memorable lesson while simultaneously maintaining the girl’s admiration? Do you think he felt satisfied as he drove away? How did you feel about his solution?

Storytellers deliver just the right amount of information to convey meaning. Had the storyteller decided to include all of the implied details that we’ve discussed in this article, this video would have been painfully too long to watch. However, by considering the audience’s role in telling the story, the storyteller has maintained a perfect balance between explicit and implicit information.

This video illustrates how one can use both explicit and implicit information to create stories that are rich in detail even if the story is poor on time. How rich, you might ask? This little story employed 23 of the 60 StoryHow™ PitchDeck Cards:

Role cards used in the story:

  • Card #2: Protagonist: The man in the muscle car who is minding his own business until the Porsche shows up
  • Card #3: Antagonist: The boy who decides to challenge the man
  • Card #4: Minor Characters: The girl in the passenger seat, the sports car, and the muscle car
  • Card #6: Setting: Two cars at an intersection
  • Card #9: Catalyst: The girl who’s influencing two guys who want to impress her
  • Card 11: Fatal Flaw: The boy’s immaturity in thinking that impressing a girl is more important than his or her safety.

Event cards used in the story:

  • Card # 16: Initial Impulse: The boy challenges the man to a road dual
  • Card #17: The Ending: The man teaches the boy a lesson while simultaneously maintaining the girl’s admiration
  • Card #20: External Conflict: Street racing is dangerous
  • Card #27: The Twist: The man is actually a cop
  • Card #28: The Mismatched Response: Rather than stepping on the gas pedal passionately, the man flashes his badge matter-of-factly
  • Card # 30: Backstory: Although not explained explicitly, the storyteller left enough clues for the audience to assemble multiple backstories for themselves.

Influence cards used in the story:

  • Card #31: Jeopardy: External: Street racing is dangerous. Internal: A bruised ego
  • Card #32: Emotional Choice: The male ego in the midst of a female
  • Card #33: Logical Choice: The man’s decision to flash his badge. Both the boy and man’s decisions to back down.
  • Card # 40: Throughline: Although the motivations of the characters weren’t explained explicitly, enough clues were left for the audience to figure them out on their own. The boy wants to impress the girl. The man wants to teach the boy a lesson while retaining the girl’s admiration.
  • Card #42: Who Knows What?: The storyteller chose to hide the cop’s identity from the boy, girl, and audience.
  • Card #43: Mistaken Identity: The boy mistook the cop as Joe Shmoe.

Technique cards used in the story:

  • Card #47: Meaning: The moral of the story: Be careful when picking a fight…you never know with whom you’re challenging.
  • Card # 54: Timing/Order: Consider how the story changes if the storyteller had chosen to let the audience in on the joke that the man was a cop. The audience would have felt different about the boy…seeing him as less of a punk and more of a dumb kid about to get his comeuppance.
  • Card #56: Irony: Of all the people the boy could have challenged, what are the odds that he pulls next to an off-duty cop? Fate? Karma?
  • Card #57: Symbolism: A boy in an expensive car screams youth and privilege. The badge represents authority. The girl’s wink communicates a shared moment.
  • Card #60: Contrast: The contrast of youth vs. age, inexperience vs. experience.

Remember that there are always two stories: the story being told and the one being heard. The best storytellers focus on both.

So, what about your own business stories? Think about the roles, events, and influences. Ask yourself about the story being told and the one being heard. Use the StoryHow™ method to deconstruct it. And if you have a copy of the StoryHow™ PitchDeck, identify the cards that are applicable to the story. Perhaps you can learn something to make your story better?

 

Note: The original movie clip is 1:06 long. Through the magic of YouTube embedding, though, I cut the first 28 seconds because they did nothing to advance the story. Feel free to watch the whole thing to see what I mean.

 

Want better storytelling skills?
Subscribe to our Dragonslayer Digest Newsletter

Dragonslayer Digest, our bi-weekly e-newsletter, curates the best business storytelling content. Just add your email and click on the "I Wanna Slay Some Dragons!" button.