Our goal is to be your one-stop business storytelling resource and we do so by publishing strategies and tactics that help you become a better storyteller. We fulfilled our promise in 2018 through not only publishing the following 32 articles, but Ron also published a new book called The Proverb Effect: Secrets to create tiny phrases that change the world. We look forward to serving your storytelling needs in 2019.
StoryHow Blog Posts (2018)
1. The Evangeline Connection
Variety helps build storytelling stamina. Sometimes its helpful to reach beyond the business storytelling genre to broaden your skills. In this post, Ron practices what he preaches by telling a historical story with personal significance.
2. The Simple Reason Why Most Companies Tell The Wrong Story
Most companies tell the wrong story because they fail to understand the complicated role that their products and services play within an ecosystem of people with different motivations.
3. Use These Three Simple Words to Bond with Any Audience
Looking for an easy way to bond with an audience? Just preface your message with these three little words.
4. Why Marketers Must Always Consider the “Three Whats”
Marketers who want to incorporate storytelling into their messaging must first employ “the three whats.”
5. Three Steps to Telling a Single-sentence Story
Single-sentence stories use carefully chosen words to present facts that defy listener expectations. In this post, Ron describes one of the most emotionally powerful single-sentence stories he’s ever heard.
6. How to Choose Your Story’s Most Significant Details
Sometimes storytelling lessons come from the most unlikely places. This one comes from mathematics.
7. Assumptions Play Two Vital Roles in Storytelling
We all make assumptions. We can’t help it. Which is why they play such important roles in any story.
8. Simple Storytelling Lesson from a Rolling Stones Song
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards offer great advice for any storyteller…through a pop song.
9. How One Awesome Story Took 42 Years for Me to Tell
Sometimes the best stories take a while to tell. This one took me forty-two years.
10. The Four-letter Word that Drives all Stories
The backbone of any story is a simple four-letter word. And it’s not the one you’re thinking of.
11. It’s Hard to See the Story When You’re in it
It’s hard to see the story when you’re in the middle of it. Before we get too confident in our present-day beliefs, remember that we too are in the middle of our own incomplete stories and the only thing standing between us and their endings is time.
12. The Best Salespeople are Story Researchers
The best sales folks aren’t necessarily great storytellers. But they are great story researchers.
13. Quality is measured by the number of words you strike out NOT bang out
It’s not the amount of words you write. It’s about the amount of words you keep.
14. Thinking Is the Hardest Work
Storytellers need time to think, which doesn’t play well in a business culture that demands communications through bulleted presentation slides.
15. Journalists CAN’T be Storytellers
Journalists are beholden to facts. Storytellers are beholden to their audiences. And never the twain shall meet.
16. When Your Story is Stuck, Try a Test
Ron explains one of the techniques that he uses to get unstuck.
17. Great Questions Lead to Great Stories
Have you ever prefaced an answer with “That’s a great question?” In all likelihood, you were about to answer with a story.
18. Beware the Shaggy Dog Story
Have you ever heard a story that seemed so filled with promise yet it never delivered? If so, you’ve been the victim of a Shaggy Dog story.
19. Clickbait: The Evil Shaggy Dog Story
Ron demonstrates how clickbait headline writers use storytelling techniques against us
20. StoryTip: Characters Fall Into Patterns
People enter new situations with previous experiences. Some of those experiences dictate how we act. Great stories come from mismatches in those actions.
21. Don’t Dumb Down. Build Up
The human brain has a tremendous capacity to understand very complex concepts. You just gotta give it a little head start.
22. Story is the shell…not the nut
Some things in life give their lives for others. Stories are no exception.
23. Storytellers Allow Audiences to Infer
Bad storytellers describe meaning explicitly. Great storytellers allow their audiences to infer it themselves.
24. Wanna be a storyteller? Be careful what you ask for
Storytelling is a superpower. But it also comes with its own Kryptonite.
25. Storytellers Break the Rules
Advertising legend Stan Freberg shows us how the best storytellers break the rules.
26. Introducing The Proverb Effect
Ron introduces The Proverb Effect, the first book to define a repeatable process for conveying deep meaning through self-created proverbs.
27. Why this Storyteller Wrote a Book about Proverbs
Storyteller Ron Ploof wanted to know how proverbs have been used successfully to pass wisdom from one generation to another. Two years of research later and he’s figured out the rules for creating the ultimate long-story short.
28. Less Convincing, More Conveying
Deception experts say that liars convince, while truth-tellers convey. Which of the two terms best describes your marketing materials?
29. Storytellers Avoid Distractions
The worst thing that a storyteller can do is introduce a distraction to the audience.
30. Bookend Your Next Talk with Proverbs
Ron Ploof introduces the StoryHow™ PSP method of structuring your next talk.
31. Creating Proverbs: The Function
Proverb construction is a three step process. This post is about Step 1: determining a function.
32. Proverb Construction Step #2: The Frame
Proverb construction is a three step process. This post is about Step 2: determining a proverb’s frame.
All written works consist of form and function. Since form is more complicated than function (see last post), we’ll need to spread our discussion about it across a few posts.
Proverbial form is split into two major pieces: frames (the structure by which we build our proverbs) and finishes (the techniques used to gussy ’em up). Today we cover frames.
Frames come in four categories: Metaphor/Definition, Comparison, Conditional, and Special
Metaphor is the building block of all proverbs, thus it deserves its own frame category. Proverbs built upon metaphor/definition frames include:
- time is money
- ignorance is bliss
- a diamond is forever
Comparison frames juxtapose certain roles, events, and influences to make a point. They frequently contain qualifying terms such as better, best and worse:
- It’s better to have loved and lost than have to have never loved at all
- Old friends and old wine are best
- False friends are worse than open enemies
Conditional frames establish situational advice. They typically contain setup words like if and when:
- If the shoe fits, wear it
- If you lose your temper, don’t look for it
- When EF Hutton speaks, people listen
4. Special Frames
And lastly, a subset of frames exists that may contain metaphor/definition, comparison, or conditional elements, but do so uniquely. There are two special frame subcategories: derivatives and implied.
4a. Derivative (Special)
Derivative proverbs are built upon well-established sayings and cultural references, thus they come spring-loaded with memorability. Many carry humor which lowers the barrier to listener adoption and increases the likelihood that the proverb will be repeated. My favorite derivative proverb results from the combination of two other proverbs:
A rolling stone gathers no moss + open mouth insert foot = a closed mouth gathers no foot
My storytelling buddy Park Howell used an iconic song as a derivative frame to form:
a spoonful of story helps the data go down
(Can’t ya just hear Julie Andrews singing it?)
4b. Implied (Special)
Finally, while all proverbs are based in metaphor and formed upon frames, sometimes those frames get eliminated during the editing process. For example, let’s take the proverb no pain no gain. Note the absence of telltales for comparisons (better/best/worse) nor conditionals (if/then/when). Does this mean that the proverb has no frame?
We’ll dive deeper into this topic when we talk about finishes, but proverb creators start with a big idea, determine a function and a frame, and then iterate through an editing cycle to make the proverb more memorable and repeatable. Sometimes this process eliminates telltales (better/best/worse/if/then/when) while simultaneously leaving behind cognitive references to them.
For example, perhaps the first incarnation of no pain, no gain read: If you want to gain, you must experience pain before some sharp copy editor chopped those nine words to four. And although the proverb lost its conditional telltale (if), cognitive frame references remain in the minds of both speaker and listener. The speaker implies the conditional frame while the listener infers it.
Now it’s your turn. Examine your favorite proverbs. Can you determine their functions and frames? The better you are at deconstructing existing proverbs, the better you’ll be with creating your own.
If you want to learn more about proverbs, grab a copy of The Proverb Effect on Amazon.com.
Photo Credit: Extension of library of Harvard College, Iron details. Ware and Van Brunt architects / Wm. C. Richardson, del. Cambridge Massachusetts, 1878. Boston: Heliotype Printing Co. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2007682661/