Posted on August 24, 2015 3:03 pm | Content
Tell me a fact and I will learn.
Tell me a truth and I will believe.
But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever
—Native American Proverb
We humans are storytelling creatures. We relate to our pasts and futures, to the world around us, to our fears, to our relationships, our beliefs, to everything in our lives through stories. When we sleep, we dream in stories.
Even in business, the way we talk about narratives isn’t all that different from a novelist framing the elements of a new book. A lot of companies invest in storytelling as a discipline. Companies from software companies to travel agencies, from mobile enterprises to auto manufacturers fill storytelling positions (with “storyteller” in the job title). Nissan has one. So does IBM.
There are countless books on storytelling for businesses, and consultants who specialize in it. Many of these resources are great at helping organizations tell stories, the best approach to making a case, sparking a call to action, or influencing a behavior. Few are optimal, though, when you’re stumped in the midst of trying to craft a story.
To solve that problem, you might want to pick a card. Any card.
That’s the idea behind Ron Ploof’s StoryHow PitchDeck, a deck of 60 cards that can inspire you, motivate you, or (at the very least) move you a step beyond the quicksand in which your writer’s block has mired you.
Ploof isn’t new to the storytelling game. Like me, Ron was a pioneer podcaster, starting Griddlecakes Radio a decade ago; its focus is the art of audio storytelling. Under the StoryHow brand, Ron has taught storytelling workshops for all types of businesses.
Knowing that companies struggle with storytelling, Ron sought a way to help that didn’t involve writing yet another book. After kicking ideas around with content marketing colleagues (like MarketingProfs’ Ann Handley), he developed the deck designed for anybody to use when they want to develop a narrative.
Like a standard deck of playing cards, the StoryHow deck is made up of four suits, three of which focus on the vital elements of any story (roles, events, and infuences); the fourth suit contains cards that offer ideas for storytelling techniques. A role could be, for example, a protagonist, a pawn, a deceiver, or a catalyst (among others). Events include situations like experiencing a loss, an external conflict, and a setback. Influences include a variety of choices (logical, emotional, obligatory, etc.), mistaken identity, context, and knowledge. Among techniques, you’ll find shared experiences, big ideas, point of view, and others.
Each card includes an explanation, potential uses, an example, and a kick starter question or statement, as in the example at left. And, also like a standard deck of cards, there’s not just one way to play with the PitchDeck. If you’re in a hurry, you can use the “Starter Hand,” a set of eight specific cards that helps you identify your audience, your protagonist, the event that sets the story in motion, the story’s conflict, the emotional choice the protagonist must make, the purpose of the story, its meaning (or moral), and its ending. You can also shuffle the other 52 cards and pick one at random to see if it sparks an idea for your story.
Booster hands require you to separate the cards into four stacks based on their suits and select the top card from each pile. The instructions also feature team exercises and other ways to put the cards to good use.
I’ve been meaning to write a post about the StoryHow PitchDeck for a while. The deck has been sitting in front of me for weeks. A few days ago, while working on a story and feeling lost, I picked a card at random. INDECISION, it read, provoking an “Aha!” moment for me that set my tale back on the right path. I may well have come up with indecision (or some other plot device) on my own, given enough time. Still, there’s something fantastic to be said about the time I saved thanks to the inspiration of a simple card choice.
If you come up with or improve a single story by using Ron’s innovative deck, they will have been worth more than the measly $49 a deck will set you back.