Whatever the nature and extent of a presentation, be it formal or informal, whatever the objective(s) and audience may be, you will probably have much greater success if you anchor the material in a human context.
The best way to do that?
More specifically, create a setting, introduce major “characters,” focus on an issue (question, problem, opportunity, etc.), identify possibilities, develop a plot, and explain what a “happy ending” would be.
Need some ideas to stimulate your thinking?
Here are “rules” that were originally tweeted by Emma Coats, Pixar’s Story Artist. Number 9 on the list – When you’re stuck, make a list of what [begin italics] wouldn’t [end italics] happen next – is a great one and can apply to writers in all genres.
o You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
o You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
o Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about until you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
o Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
o Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
o What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
0 Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
0 Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
o When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
o Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
o Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
o Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
o Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
o Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
o If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
o What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
o No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
o You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
o Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
o Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
o You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
o What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
Best sources for additional information about storytelling?
I recommend these three:
Stephen Denning’s The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative
Annette Simmons’ The Story Factor (2nd Revised Edition)
Doug Lipman’s Improving Your Storytelling: Beyond the Basics for All Who Tell Stories in Work and Play
Also: Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson’s Innovate the Pixar Way: Business Lessons from the World’s Most Creative Corporate Playground