Most of the stories are not completely original, but rather a result of combining ideas from many experiences and stories coming from different sources. So in the case of the storytelling marketer, crafting stories requires collecting ideas from various sources and using the imagination to combine them in an original way. Combining many sources of inspiration with the needs and desires of your audience is likely to be the formula of successful brand stories.
According to Joe Lambert –master storyteller and director of the Center for Digital Storytelling-there are several steps in the creative process of a narrative:
Empty your mind. As E’yen A. Gardner said, “To express yourself in a creative way you do not need structure, you need an empty mind”. Best ideas appear in the gap between consciousness and unconsciousness, not as a result of thinking. For instance, try reading a short piece of narrative, and then close your eyes, take a few deep breaths or do a short meditation and empty your mind. Then let the inspiration emerge and start writing whatever comes to your mind. Clearing your mind is the key to letting ideas from past experiences flow and imagining original combinations.
Support your self-confidence. Some writers, especially those who are less experienced, may lack self-confidence along the creative process and mostly at the beginning. There are some mental tricks to overcome your insecurities: As John Steinbeck said “Do not write thinking about an audience or an editor, think about someone you like, who likes you and thinks you are great”. Try to visualize that person nodding at your storytelling in the sense of approval to encourage you in developing your ideas and exploring new ones.
Re-shape and polish. When you read it for the first time, you have to assess whether the narrative conveys the ideas and messages you intended to explain in a compelling and clear way. There is always something you can improve to upgrade the quality of your work: find better words to express the ideas, reframe the explanation to make it more efficient and clear, include missing nuances, further develop the most important ideas, etc. Critical reading is just the first quality control that your narrative will go through.
First audience. Even if you have strong confidence in your writing, it is convenient to check what some of the potential readers think about it: do they receive the message you intend to convey? Do they find it easy to read? Do they understand the most complex ideas you explain? Do they find it compelling? Do they find it too short and miss further development of some ideas? Or do they find it too long and descriptive? From listening to many opinions you are likely to more clearly view what the narrative conveys and how readable and compelling it is for them. You could always listen to more opinions, but you had better stick to set deadlines.
Refining or reframing. Once you have listened to your first audience sample, it’s time to compare the intended message you wanted to convey when you started writing and the one that the audience members have received. Maybe you come up with new ideas and you decide to reshape your initial idea. In this stage you can review the purpose of your narrative or reframe it somehow to make it more adequate for your target audience, making the necessary adjustments to better arouse the emotions and convey the messages you want and also tailor the narrative to their needs and likes.
Speaking it out. When it is a personal story, it is convenient to tell it to someone in order to notice how these words resonate when they are spoken. This is the moment when storytelling starts to become a transformational experience, so long as the story brings you back to past moments of your life that are charged with strong emotions. Such experience may provide you with new insights about the story or to better understand some things about your life. The section “The transformational power of storytelling” at the end of this Whitepaper goes into depth on the power of storytelling as a life-changing experience.
Finally there may be some more iterations on testing and refining the story to get it finished.
Do you think of other creative stages or techniques to foster creativity?