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In Medias Res

It was not a mutiny in the old-time sense, of course, with flashing of cutlasses, a captain in chains,and desperate sailors turning outlaws. After all, it happened in 1944 in the United States Navy, but the court of inquiry recommended trial for mutiny, and the episode became known as “the Caine mutiny” throughout the service.

The story begins with Willie Keith because the event turned on his personality as the massive door of a vault turns on a small jewel bearing.  Caine’s Mutiny by Hernan Wouk.

These are the opening lines for the 1951, Pulitzer Prize novel, which starts the story at the court martial; whereas, the 1954 movie version begins with the 2nd Lt. Willie Keith being assigned to the Caine ship.  The screenplay builds the characters and the causes for the mutiny.  The book novel is a good example of In Medias Res.

Today, I will introduce, “In Medias Res,” or learning how to begin the story in the middle where there is an action or dramatic scene that captures, engages, and motivates your listener to want more.  In Medias Res creates questions.  Questions like, ‘What happened before this?’  or ‘What caused this to happen?’  or ‘Who is he?’  These questions create engagement and capture the audience’s attention.

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cumbelineIn Medias Res is a well establish style of storytelling.  For example, Homer’s Odysseus’ journey already is at the end when the story begins, what happens after this are flashbacks to different points of time, building the story, the characters, and answering the ‘Why’ questions.   William Shakespeare also used this format in one of his plays called, “Cymbeline.”

There are three good reasons for considering the use of In Medias Res.  The first has an advantage of focusing attention to the high point of the story.  A good analogy is on how movie trailers are designed.  They tend to place the audience right into the middle of the action to entice and motivate future ticket sales.  In storytelling, placing the audience in the middle of the action or dramatic scene has advantages.

The second reason gives you an opportunity to seize the attention of your audience.  But what is meant by attention?  The attention here means to engage or to invite a listener along the journey.

The third and what I think is the most important point is it creates questions immediately.  If the next turn on the road can be anticipated there isn’t much suspense.  Suspense comes from not knowing what will happen next.  The middle initiates the action, the beginning explains how we got there, and the end, which we are not sure, still lies around the bend unknown.

First-World-War-so_2786176bOPENING SCENE:   The soldier is writing into his diary his last thoughts before the final battle, he then stops to reflect on his earlier entries as we journey back in time through his memory.  Suddenly, we’re back, the battle begins.  How will it end?   Will the soldier survive? We don’t know. That’s the advantage of In Medias Res.

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Getting Results

 

Consider this: 

st-valentine-s-day-massacre90 years ago, On February 14, 1929, at 10:30 a.m. four hoods dressed as policemen, two in uniform and two dressed in suits, walked into a garage of a known local gang hangout.  Once in, they lined up, facing the wall, seven men. The four poser officers suddenly brandished four sub-machine guns and massacred all seven.

Newspapers called it, “The Valentine Day Massacre.”  This was followed by a nationwide  outcry to halt gang violence.

submachinegunIn 1934, under the leadership of the new President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the National Firearms Act of 1934, was passed.  Its intentions were specifically to keep the Tommy sub-machine gun out of private hands.  Interesting enough the NRA supported the enactment of the new law.  It makes one ask what has changed?gun-control-7-728

90 years later, on February 14, 2018, at 2:30 p.m. one young man with a AK-assault rifle killed 17 people at a local public high school.  Besides the 17 killed, 14 were wounded.  In 90 years, what took four perpetrators to kill seven men—now only took one murderer to kill 17.

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sparkyIn 1929, it was J. Edgar Hoover, who voiced the cause for gun laws and more power for the FBI.  Today, it is Al Hoffmann Jr., a real-estate tycoon, who in the past has been the major Republican donator, and who has donated millions to the party.

But as of this massacre was personal in his own backyard of Florida, he had decided, “Enough is enough!” and has written an open letter to all donators and Republican leadership that funds will halt if future candidates oppose new gun legislation.

I have interpreted Al’s message as:  No Bucks for Buckshot!

This type of genre is called, “Spark-line’s.”  There are three reasons to use it:

  1. To inspire an audience to action
  2. To create hope and excitement
  3. To create a following.

As of today, 100-plus student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took a bus to Tallahassee to speak to their representatives.  Other schools around the country are following suite.  There is great hope in changing the laws pertaining to assault rifles.

Online social media, television, newspapers, and talk radio topics are hot on this one.  The students are being backed by Hoffmann and other contributors, students turning 18 and parents across the nation are excited about making the change our nation needs to protect it’s future children and government.

Back to my lesson, Spark-lines draw attention to problems we have in our society and our personal lives.  The idea is to create fuel to motivate an audience towards a specific goal or action.

Throughout history, people have been moved to action even one speech.  I think of Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy and so many others.  Spark-line stories are great to motivate engagement for all social causes.  The main idea presenting what the world will look like if the following changes are made.

I look forward to reading your spark-lines in the future.

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Hero’s Journey

Human stories began about 200,000 years ago, before the technology of writing was invented, stories were told and passed down orally.  The oldest recorded written story came out of Mesopotamia.   It was the Epic of Gilgamesh.  The classification of this story is called, “The Hero’s Journey.”

Epic-of-Gilgamesh

 

There are eight classical story themes and the ‘Hero’s Journey,’ is one of the most popular and oldest of all.  The oldest story, “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” was written a little over 4,000 years ago on cuneiform tablets and was taken from oral stories that had been passed down for generations.  Gilgamesh has all the hero action and suspense as in our modern-day stories.

Modern-day stories of a similar hero can be found in: George Baily from ‘It’s a wonderful life’ to Katniss Everdeen in ‘The Hunger Games.’  The hero can be male or female, young or old, rich or poor.  Our character seeks adventures only to find the real story is about discovering his weaknesses and his inner strength.

In the end, we admire the hero for overcoming the obstacles and challenges because our character generally overcome successfully their own physical limitation or disadvantages.  Ben Okri said, “The fact of storytelling hints at a fundamental human unease, hints at human imperfection.  Where there is perfection there is no story to tell.”  Harry Potter may be a wizard, but he was still a young boy.  The story is set in a David and Goliath format where a child character is challenged to face adult wizards and mystical creatures.

Every hero finds a mentor-friend along his path’s journey.  Gilgamesh, 6000 years ago, walked with Enkidu, Luke Skywalker finds Obiwan Kenobi, and even Marty McFly has Doc.  In all cases, they somehow lose their mentor along the way.  At the most crucial point our character must face alone his fears and doubts when the challenge, generally a life-death situation, comes upon him.

These types of stories demonstrate the benefits of taking the risks.  Risks can range from losing a kingdom to losing one’s life.  Behind these types of stories there are important characteristics in what makes human successes and human failures.  If the story is well presented, the listener becomes involved emotionally and psychologically drawing from experiences their own defeat and failures.

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Yes, stories allow the listener to travel with the hero, continuing to urge him on or to suffer with him.  The Hero’s Journey is about sharing emotions too!   Our hero may lose a battle but learns how to turn his weakness into the weapon he needs, like in, “The Last Samurai,” where the hero, Capt. Nathan Algren learns a new philosophy—Bushido, the way of the warrior.  This moves this character from a defeated drunk to a national hero.

Finally, the Hero’s Journey demonstrates that anyone can achieve newfound wisdom if they are willing to keep an open mind.  In the end, the Hero’s Journey is about a visual journey of emotions leading the listener to accept his weaknesses while discovering his inner strength.

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Experiences Are Best Shared

This reminds me of a story when I was branch manager of a Southern California S&L back in the 1980’s.  My supervisor was Samantha (Sammy) Galluzzo.  Our branch was open every Saturday but Sammy was never available because she went to the City of Hope each weekend.  When I first found out where she was going I wasn’t sure if she was going in for treatment or testing.

One day, she shared with me the reason for her weekly attendance.  She told me that she had had cancer.  She recalled in some detail her weekly trips for chemotherapy.  She said, “The minute I got out of the car and saw the hospital building, where my therapy would take place, I would immediately get sick.”

She continued, “There was a young girl who brought me and the other patients blankets, magazines, and even games to occupy our minds.  She would be so encouraging always saying, “This will soon be over and you will be well and never have to return—I know you will do fine.””

Sammy decided to ask her what cancer she had beaten and her reply was not comforting, “Oh, I’ve never had cancer, I’m just a volunteer.”

Sammy said she felt abandoned at that point.  All the good wishes and encouragement that this young girl had given was useless since she never had the experience.  She told me that she made a prayer that if God spared her she would return.  She would be able to tell others she knew what they were going through because she had also gone through the same treatment.  She would become the light at the end of long dark tunnel.

Well, Sammy was cured and she kept her promise.  Now when she got out of her car she could stare at the building that once made her sick and no longer feel the sickness but the strength to challenge others as a form of encouragement.  Hidden in her thoughts were the hopes that she might live long enough to see that building torn down.

Sammy used Strategic Stories from her own life experiences to give hope and encouragement to other cancer patients.  She volunteered, brought in the blankets, magazines and games, but she also brought in something more powerful—her testimony and strength.

I recalled this story because Strategic Stories are more powerful when they come from your own stories, and if you are telling another person’s story then you must be able to identify with the emotions to deliver the message.

Whenever you think, “I’ve been there,” you are hovering over a story that holds not only your experience but your emotions as well.  Leonardo Da Vinci wrote, “There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see.”  Knowing which class of people, you are addressing, while understanding the real obstacle restricting movement forward are all part of Strategic Storytelling.

See you next week with more Strategic Story tips.

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Finding the Stories

Without material, you have no story.  So, where do you get the material?  Here are some thoughts.

First think about who will be your audience.  If you cater more to a Western Culture, who speak mostly English, then you will need materials and resources that your audience will understand.  Even though you enjoy writings from Eastern philosophies, like Sun Tzu, your Western audience may not get the point of your story.  There is a way around this and we will discuss this more next week.

If your audience is global, then it is even more important to understand what symbols in a multicultural world will best fit the stories you produce.  Lincoln’s repertoire of stories stretched from the Illinois’ back woods to the hustle and bustle of Washington elites.  From politically correct to obscene.  The key was in timing; knowing when and how to use them and what the ROI would be from the punchline.

Like Abraham, you have a lot of personal stories that you have collected over the years.  Telling a story that doesn’t always put you in the best of light can work for you, because that means you are opening trust and building a relationship.  Heck, we’ve all made mistakes, and when someone makes fun of his/her own short comings it can sometimes build a closer relationship with your audience.  This is key for stand-up comedians who tell stories that their audience can relate to.

Lincoln read books.  He created and developed his Strategic Stories from the Bible and other non-fiction books he borrowed or bought.  Books and stories are what made him a great orator.  John Kennedy was another voracious reader, writer and speaker.

 

Mary Bateson said, “The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.”  Metaphors, for the Strategic Storyteller, are the most powerful tools for persuasive arguments.  Metaphors, if done right can engage and motivate your listener towards a specific action.  When you learn how to tell instead of sell, you will in the end, sell even more.

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Reader’s Digest has a host of short and long stories that don’t take much time to read.  Here is one I enjoy.  How would you use this story?

A pastor decided one Saturday to call on a new parishioner.  When he got to the parishioner’s home he saw a car in the driveway.  He knocked and knocked on the door with no one response from within.  So, he took out a small business card and wrote on back, ‘Revelations 3:20’ and stuck it on the door.  It read, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he will with me.”

The next day as he was counting the offering, he found a message on his collection card, “Genesis 3:10” It read, “And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked.”

See you Wednesday.

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Making The Connection

In the morning, I enjoy playing a game of Sudoku.  Sudoku is a popular logic puzzle that teaches about patterns and connections.  As I play this game, it tends to focus my mind and open it at the same time.  As I was playing it this morning I started to think about Abraham Lincoln.  Sudoku has a connection to President Lincoln?  Yes, let me explain.

In Sudoku, you start off with a 9 x 9 grid, which is further broken down into 9 smaller grids of 3 x 3.  The game comes partly solved with numbers randomly scattered throughout the larger grid (Fig. 1).  Your job is to find the missing numbers so that each smaller grid contains the numbers 1 through 9, while making sure the larger grid also gets filled with the numbers 1 through 9 horizontally and vertically.  No number can repeat horizontally or diagonally when finished (fig 2.)

Sudoku Fig1                       Sudoku Fig2

Fig 1: New Puzzle                                                             Fig 2: Completed Puzzle

Okay, you say, that’s interesting but what does Sudoku have to do with President Lincoln?  Okay, okay I’m getting to it.  Sudoku is about finding patterns, and like the game of chess there are known patterns that are sometimes discovered as you play though the game.  Once a pattern is established you start to make new connections to solving the puzzle.

Leonardo da Vinci wrote, “To develop a complete mind:  Study the art of science; study the science of Art, learn how to see.  Realize that everything connects to everything else.”

Abraham Lincoln was a master storyteller.  He gathered his stories from his past experiences, from other storytellers, from books, and from the Bible.  There didn’t seem to be a situation where Lincoln didn’t have a story to tell.  He is known for his stories that entertained, but he also excelled in delivering Strategic Stories that could change the direction of a river.

There are several examples on how Lincoln deflated his opponent’s arguments or diffused some opponents attack with just a quick story.  He used his stories to win arguments, votes, and to persuade changes that still affect us to this day.  Lincoln realized that when confronted with a daunting situation he would use a story to make a connection that would persuade his argument.

Newton Bateman, an educator and close friend of Lincoln, recalled that Mr. Lincoln “knew how to select and arrange the material, what to put in the fore-ground, what in the background, what to set up as the central figure, and how to make all converge towards the final climax. He knew how to whet curiosity just enough to hold the attention of all to the end, without giving the least clue as to the nature of the final explosion; and he especially excelled in that supreme generalship which enables an accomplished story-teller to keep his reserves out of sight till the opportune moment…”

Want to increase your visibility, leads, and profits?  Then tune in this week as I break down Lincoln’s storytelling patterns that will make successful connections for your business ventures.

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The Story That Took A City

Yesterday, we discussed how emotions affect the human brain through storytelling.  Today, I will cover the second principle of Aristotle’s storytelling principles—Credibility.  Credibility means: The quality of being trusted and believed in.  According to Aristotle this attribute composed 20% of the presentation.

I could safely say; most people have heard about the Trojan War.  The Greek warrior hero, Achilles, and the Trojan champion, Hector.  The Trojan war lasted 10 years, about the same amount of time the U.S. was at war with Vietnam.  In both cases, at least according to, “The Post,” the American military knew they weren’t going to win.  The Greeks had the same idea.  They hoped to starve out Troy, but it didn’t work.

Both sides, at the end of ten years, left the enemies shores.  America returned to rebuild.  The Greeks returned to destroy the city and plunder all of Troy’s wealth.  If I ask people how did the Greeks win most will say, “They built a wooden, and the Trojans brought it into their city—and the rest is history.

The what, the wooden horse, and the how, bringing the horse in, are well known, but no one knows the why?  What convinced the Trojans to bring in the horse?  The answer came from one man who used a Strategic Story to convince the Trojans to bring the horse in.  In fact, the man’s name was written into Shakespeare’s plays, he was placed in the 8th level of Hell in Dante’s Inferno, and Niccolò Machiavelli described him in his book, “The Prince.”  Who was he?  A Greek officer named Sinon.

Homer made it clear in his story, “The Iliad and Odyssey,” that Sinon was the real hero.  After ten years of failing to breach the wall, Sinon came upon an idea.  Build the horse, which was a symbol of Troy, and put into its belly 30 soldiers.

Problem #1:  How do we get the horse in?

Problem #2: What if the Trojans burn the wooden horse?

Sinon had a plan.  The Greek ships would leave and leave only him behind, half naked, no weapons.  He would tell a strategic story and get the Trojans to move the great horse into the city.

When the Greeks left, Trojan scouts reported back to palace.  All came out cautiously.  Sinon waited patiently by the horse.  The Trojans approached slowly.  When finally confronted, Sinon told them he had deserted.  He told them that the horse was built to the gods to protect the Greek voyage home.  Sinon went further to tell them to burn the horse because any city protecting the horse would prosper from the gods.

Sinon

 

 

Sinon was tortured and yet held to his story.  Finally convinced he was telling the truth they embraced him and took both him and the horse in.  The emotions established, and now the credibility had been confirmed.

 

 

Even though the story centers on deceit, a fact of war, without Sinon’s credibility Troy wouldn’t have disappeared.  Tomorrow, Logic brings it all together.