Story Telling Wisdom From a Hollywood Superstar

Would you expect a singer or actor to be a master story teller?

Most people know that Will Smith is one of the most talented entertainers in the world – successful actor, musician and producer.

You might not know that he understands storytelling as well as any novelist, speaker or screenwriter.

In a recent interview between Will and screen writing guru Michael Hauge – who works with Mr. Smith’s company as a consultant – I picked up the following nuggets of wisdom about storytelling:

Mr. Hauge reminded us that one of the fundamentals of storytelling is to share a transformational moment of the main character. Audiences want to undergo the change that the main character is experiencing.

Will Smith pointed out that every great story has one moment when everything comes together for the central character. This moment is where the character is transformed.

He also says that the great moment in a story is parallel to the great moment of a joke. The key to a joke is the punchline; everything in the joke leads to that moment. The key to the story is the transformational scene. Everything in the story leads to that critical moment.

Furthermore, he suggests that to craft a great story, ask these four questions about your central character:

1) What does your character want?
2) Why does s/he want it?
3) What’s going to happen if s/he doesn’t get it?
4) What are the obstacles to getting it?

I’m currently working on a story about my original desire to be a speaker – to inspire and entertain people. Using these four questions, this is my “skeletal” story:

1) When I was a kid, I loved to make people laugh, and also educate them
2) Entertaining and teaching people made me feel good; I was either making others feel better or improving their lives.
3) As I got older, I realized If I didn’t do this, something was missing. I realized I would feel the pain of regret, living with “what if?” the rest of my life
4) My obstacle was an incident in first grade. It was so embarrassing and humiliating that when I was older, I declined opportunities to try out for acting, speaking or comedy. The internal message from first grade experience was “you’ll be humiliated and made fun of, don’t do it.”

With this as my foundation, I can now build out the back story:

“What happened in first grade that was embarrassing?”
“How did I feel each time I turned down an opportunity?”
“What was the turning point – the crucial moment – when I changed?”
“How did I change after that moment?”
“What is the walkaway message for the audience?”

One of the goals of any story should be to make your characters relatable. If you find the right circumstances, Will Smith’s four questions will create this reliability. They will help you portray your character as likable, with faults, and a goal that others will understand.

Once your character is established, you’ll have set the stage to deliver the transformation others seek. This doesn’t need to be a major change. The best presentations and speeches typically don’t inspire others to make an instant, massive adjustment in their lives. The transformation is usually a shift in thinking, a new behavior, or a different way of feeling.

This new way of thinking, acting or feeling may eventually lead to major changes for your audience, but, your presentation is only the first step in that change.

Will Smith didn’t get to the top of his profession by accident. He is a brilliant storyteller who understands the impact a story can have on others – whether through a song, a movie or any other form of communication. Use his four questions when crafting your next story, and you’ll be well on your way to leaving a meaningful impact on others.


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4 Steps to a World Class Story ultima modifica: 2016-06-12T10:17:00-04:00 da Michael Davis