“Why do you keep you doing that?” my sailing instructor asked.

“Doing what?”

“Why can’t you leave it idling?”

We’d been been practicing one of sailing’s most important skills: docking under power. While you might think that learning how to tack, run, or set a beam reach would be more important to learn, consider the odds of a collision when sailing in the open ocean as opposed to navigating through a marina packed with millions of dollars worth of boats.

The goal was to move as slowly as possible while still having full control of your boat. The instructor had taught me to set the engine lever to the idle position, but for some reason, I refused to leave it there. Instead, I’d give it a little extra gas, thus making the boat move a little faster and in turn, increasing the odds of colliding with some millionaire’s weekend getaway.

While my actions perplexed the instructor, I knew exactly why I was doing it. When I was a teenager, I owned a car that always stalled while idling. The only way to keep it running was to give it a little gas. Since the boat’s rough idling sounded exactly like my car just before it choke out, I reacted accordingly.

Little did I know that all boats sound like that in their idle position!

The StoryHow™ method is built upon the premise: a story is the result of people pursuing what they want, and so we frame our stories by defining its events, roles and influences. Let’s take a look at the base elements for this story.

  • Event: Safely docking a sailboat under engine power
  • Roles: Student and instructor
  • Influences: Conflicting ideas of how a boat engine works

The influences make this story work. A simple misunderstanding in engine mechanics sets up conflict, confusion, and eventually forces the instructor to question his student.

We all bring patterns to our present situations and some of the best stories emerge from mismatches in those patterns. So, what patterns do your characters bring to a situation? How will you reveal them? Will you let the audience know and keep the other characters in the dark, or will you reveal the motivations to all and let the mayhem ensue?

We all bring patterns. Try playing with them to find your next story.



Photo Credit: https://www.loc.gov/resource/pga.11245/