We’re coming down to the wire…
With the big launch of my Story Selling Master Class coming up next week, I’m thinking all stories, all the time.
And so, no doubt, you’re going to get a TON of incredibly valuable story telling and story selling information in the next couple weeks’ newsletters, totally free.
It reminds me of what one of my earliest mentors Ken McCarthy used to do. Between 2000 and 2010, he ran The System Seminar, THE place to go to learn internet marketing.
Leading up to the seminar, he’d give away as much free content as you’d get by paying thousands to come to the seminar live.
He’d teach a ton. He’d get his speakers on teleseminars, and they’d teach a ton. Nobody held back. You could literally take the Pre-System Training, and go off and make a million dollars with it.
You’d think it would make it hard to fill the seats at his seminar. And yet, it only made the whole internet marketing world all the more hungry to grab up a spot in that room. Where they’d get even more incredible strategic wisdom and tactical brilliance for growing your business online.
In the end, Ken probably made multiples more off The System Seminar because he gave away so much, versus what he would have made by holding back all the good stuff for paid attendees.
So, in that spirit…
Here’s an incredibly simple way to create compelling stories!
This comes straight outta Hollywood.
Before that, from Vaudeville and Broadway.
Before that, Shakespeare.
Before that, the Ancient Greeks.
Before that, other brilliant storytellers.
And in between, so many other cultures and hubs of culture and storytellers that I’ve completely glossed over and missed.
In fact, you could even suggest that this structure of a great story is rooted in the human subconscious.
It’s something that we naturally recognize as “right” when it’s there — and subconsciously miss when it’s not.
If you do this right, your stories will gel in the mind of the reader or listener or watcher.
If you screw it up, you’ll fail to engage, motivate, captivate, and persuade — but it won’t be clear why.
In fact, this touches on the very same principles Joseph Campbell touched on in his seminal work, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, documenting the universality of human stories. George Lucas directly and unabashedly ripped off Campbell’s story structure in creating the blockbuster Star Wars franchise — a multi-billion-dollar swipe!
No matter what template or story structure you end up using, at its root should be the deeper structure of…
The 3-Step Story Formula!
I’ve written before about the structure of a good magic trick, stolen from the book and the movie, The Prestige…
Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”.
This is nothing but an adaptation of Shakespeare and his 3-Act plays.
It’s nothing but an adaptation of this universal 3-step story formula behind all great story telling.
Step 1: The Setup…
All great stories exist in context. They exist in a time and place. They are full of characters living their lives, not aware of what is about to happen to them.
This is universal to adventure stories, hero’s journeys, love stories, tragedies, the works…
We have to know what’s going on. And so the beginning of the story is all about setting the scene for what is to come.
This is where we form our initial bond with the protagonist — the main character, the hero — of the story. Where we develop our natural attraction to him or her. Where we see that they’re someone we want to root for.
Step 2: Increasing Conflict…
Here, the protagonist is taken out of the ordinary, into a world of complexities and challenges. They have a goal, but there are many barriers standing in the way.
Everything seems to be going wrong. Their success is in doubt.
If something could go wrong, it will. And it’s not long before everything seems lost.
Step 3: The Resolution…
Just when we think the protagonist is doomed, they bring it back from the brink.
Conflict is resolved.
Challenges are overcome.
They reach their goal — and it changes their life completely.
There are a million ways to tell this story…
I chose to dramatize the example, because that version of it is so universal.
In The Prestige, the setup is the pledge, the introduction of the ordinary thing. The turn is the increasing conflict, where you do something extraordinary. The prestige is the resolution, where you bring it back.
In a tragedy, the resolution goes against the protagonist, and the resolution reveals that they will be consumed by the conflict and never reach their goals.
In story selling, it’s a bit different. You’re not telling exclusively to entertain. But you can still apply the principle.
For example, at the outset of this essay I told the story of Ken McCarthy and The System Seminar. The setup is that he did these seminars every year. The increasing conflict was that he gave away so much content, you’d assume it would hurt him. The resolution was that it turned out to actually help.
It’s made more compelling because it follows this simple 3-part dramatic structure.
Here’s a good trick I once learned from John Carlton…
John Carlton is one of the most successful copywriters alive today. He’s well respected among copywriters and entrepreneurs. And he occasionally shares his secrets.
He teaches a 3-sentence story trick. The idea is to condense the guts of your story down to just 3 sentences.
Each sentence follows a step of the 3-Step Story Formula.
The Setup: When I came out of the master bathroom at 4 AM, I saw a man streak by me, for the front door — a robber!
Increasing Conflict: I attacked the guy as he tried to get out the front door, my iPad in hand, landing a good 5 or 6 punches.
The Resolution: I watched him run away down our street as my wife called the police — who responded quick and caught him before he left the neighborhood.
The Setup: Boardroom’s founder, Marty Edelston, passed away before he could fulfill a life goal of bringing together all his marketing mentors for a big seminar.
Increasing Conflict: So his right-hand-man, Brian Kurtz, reached out to all these top marketing names — some of whom had retired — to ask if they’d come together just once in celebration of Marty.
The Resolution: One-by-one, the best said “yes,” and The Titans of Direct Response turned into a once-in-a-lifetime seminar.
You get the point.
Once you get this, it’s incredibly easy to tell compelling stories!
That’s the power of formulas and templates.
You don’t have to come up with awesome stories out of nowhere. You simply have to look around, because they’re already out there.
Then, you start to fill in details.
You find a way to make The Setup as compelling as possible, to get the reader, listener, or viewer on the protagonist’s side before the story really begins.
Then, you use Increasing Conflict to up the emotional ante of the story, making the audience root for the main character as they fight to overcome the obstacles.
Finally, you bring it to an end with The Resolution, where challenges are ended one way or another.
It’s all about fitting the details in, and telling them in the most compelling way.
The exact same thing applies to using Selling Story templates, like those I’m sharing as part of the Story Selling Master Class.
This is gonna be good!
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,