205: 3 Things to Cut From Your Stories
Episode 205 is brought to you by my NEW MASTERCLASS: "How to captivate your audience without feeling like a failure on stage".
You know that feeling, right? That feeling like you just didn’t CONNECT, things didn’t CLICK, that moment didn’t land. I have been having so many conversations with these amazingly brilliant people who are out there and just feeling like something’s not working. Luckily, getting things to work for you is my specialty! :)
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As you know, we’re in the middle of the story focus month here on TMM... On Sept. 4th we’re launching Speaking Story 0- and I couldn’t be more excited! This month we’re talking about all things story in preparation for that, so you can jump in on that course feeling READY to dive in and make the most of the experience (and even if you DON’T join us for the course, there is good stuff in these podcast episodes to really up your storytelling game.
STORY ... it’s just.... the most powerful, important tool in your toolbox as a speaker.
We underestimate it. We oftentimes treat it like something that doesn’t need to be crafted or really thought about. It’s the part of the talk we oftentimes improvise to some extent, and I think that’s a mistake. We can OVER-produce a story, of course... but that’s rare… and not a good excuse to finesse our content, and think really intentionally about what we’re creating.
Which brings me to this week’s topic…
3 things you need to cut from that story you’re telling!!
I’m a BIG BELIEVER in editing! Editing is one of those skills as a speaker we don’t often talk about, but I think of editing as a leadership tool. It forces you to decide not just what you’re going to say but what you aren’t. It forces you to amok some decisions about what’s most important and most needed.
And as I was thinking about how editing interacts with storytelling, I kept thinking of a few "extra" things that seem to creep up in people’s stories, and that just don’t help you make your point well. They get in the way. They slow you down. They confuse the audience. They make it harder to deliver. They keep you from really excelling at this art form.
So, let’s dive in… 3 things you need to cut from your story:
#1 - The extra characters/locations.
Honestly, most stories AS THEY ACTUALLY HAPPENED, DON’T MAKE GREAT STORIES FOR US TO TELL. If we were writing the story, we could dig deep into the tiny details and all the people, and really take our time developing the various characters and moments in all the different places and locations they take place. But as a listener? As an audience member who has to sit there and TAKE IT IN WITH OUR EARS, and our EYES - as they physically share the same space with you... and that changes everything. We have to be much tougher about what makes the cut into our stories.
Ideally, you should have no more than 3 characters in your story. People won’t be able to keep them straight, or keep track of them, and it takes TIME to set up these various characters. (Now, I say this, and there’s always a great exception to every rule, and that feels especially true for speaking and storytelling - which is why I love it. So, if you want to be the exception, go for it and prove me wrong! I love that! But I think this is a great guideline to start from.
The random ‘other’ people in your story, who don’t play a significant role in the development of the action or the outcome of the story, have to be cut out.
Now, sometimes something might have happened that is particularly funny or notable, and it came from a random ‘other’ character, aside from the main 2 or 3... And if that’s the case, I try and merge a few character into one.
That brings up an important question about integrity and truth in storytelling…
Integrity matters. Truth matters.
But the ’truth’ of the story needs to have some flexibility in it, in order for the audience to HEAR the truth in the story. It’s an individual call, but I think we need to CRAFT more and get some of the extra, unhelpful character (and locations, details) out that don’t move the story forward.
Editing room floor.
Think of yourself more like an editor crafting the arc and narrative of the story rather than re-telling it exactly, word for word.
I say that with a BIG CAVEAT because editors have SO MUCH POWER to create new realities. I think we’ve all seen that power being manipulated in such a way that the truth has no integrity.
But, if the essence and integrity of the story is in tact, then I think we need to flex the details in order to fully support the experience of the audience and to fully capture and sometimes- EVEN MORE SO- the truth of the story.
#2 - Cut out... the extra Words.
Finding the most succinct, strongest words possible, to say what you want to say? That takes time, and a brutal editing approach. And it takes many iterations. But once you’ve done that... it’s powerful.
Keep it as short as possible, using the strongest, more accurate words possible. Don’t make us walk around with you while you figure it out. Cut out all the extra words.
And I think that’s about all I need to say about that.
#3 - Cut out... the extra IDEA TWIG.
Have you ever been listening to a story and not totally known what it was about? Cause there are typically several ideas in one story that you can pull out to use for this particular audience. Maybe you want to emphasize something one day to one audience and another thing to another audience.
Just know that, and cut out the extra IDEA TWIGS. I call them that because it’s like a tree with lots of limbs and we don’t want people’s brains going off in another direction while we are heading up the tree trunk. Know what I mean?
The brain is easily distracted. Easily moves off into an idea limb if we’re not careful to cut them out.
So, cut out the extra ideas that tend to sneak in there if we’re not careful.
And that’s it!
3 EXTRAS you want to cut out of your stories...
…the extra characters.
…the extra words.
…the extra IDEAS.
Let’s do it!
And if you want to dig deeper into STORIES - and how best to bring them out into the world with clarity and courage... well, you’ve got to come join me for my FREE WEBINAR coming up called
“How to Captivate your Audience with a STORY”.
See you there!