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character selection

brand stories character selection

How to humanize your brand stories

human eating a lego breakfast

Remember the old adage, “The fastest way to a man’s heart is through his ribcage,” or whatever? Well, the fastest way to your audience’s heart is to tell stories with emotion a.k.a., to humanize your brand stories.   Humanize brand stories with humans, not entities What gives? Why do so many professionals avoid talking about humans in their brand stories? Here are the three most ineffective protagonists that professionals cast instead of humans in their stories. Introducinnnnnnng the usual suspects… The…

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character selection

Be smart about who you make the star of your story

During a rapid-fire story session at a conference in Wenatchee, a board member shared a story about healing. In her first telling of the story, she talked about four characters:  the wife with the injured hand who was used to being independent the husband who was nervous about becoming a caregiver while his wife recovered the hospital nurse who was robotic and focused only on quick discharge the community nurse who worked magic, especially instilling confidence in the husband The…

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character selection persuasion

Keep your beneficiaries close in your story

Watch, then we klatch. Spoilers ahead…so this is a commercial for sweaters and now YOU WANT ONE FOR THE HOLIDAYS, RIIIIIGHTTTT? This is an ad. Consumers are usually the beneficiaries in ads. Not so in this case and how refreshing is that? Here, the goat herders are the beneficiaries and the sweater-buyers are secondary. Think about this arrangement for your stories. Closer is better. Instead of talking about your ultimate beneficiary, who may be a few relationships away from you,…

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character selection

Guess who makes a poor protagonist…

Are you allergic to cats? Babies? Do you like stories about ’em anyway?  Then you oughtta know that during a recent webinar, organized by the wonderful organization Washington Nonprofits, I asked the participants to name a protagonist in their stories. Someone started writing about a cool one-eyed cat. I blurted out that animals don’t make great protagonists and kept going. If I had more time to elaborate, I would’ve said… The protagonist and beneficiary are sometimes, but not always, one and the same.   Let’s say…

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best practices character selection self-advocacy

Don’t make a long story too short

Board trainings are the best. One day, a buttoned up guy with a fabulous head of silver hair—we’ll call him Peter—moved himself to tears. He sat in a windowless conference room surrounded by a dozen fellow board members he had just met. Peter told us a story about a teenage hooligan, Jimmy, falling through the cracks. A very special nun, Sister Bea, went to bat for Jimmy and got him a gig as an orderly. As Peter spoke about Jimmy’s struggles and Sister Bea’s compassion he choked…

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character selection

No one likes a pitiful protagonist

Deadpool is refreshing because there are no sacred cows. A few tropes sure: hero (or antihero? who cares) who seeks revenge and a British villain and this girlfriend…I won’t spoil it. The point is some storytellers use a heavy handed justification for why the protagonist is going full speed after his objective. I MUST AVENGE HER! I MUST PROVE THEM WRONG! DID YOU SEE WHAT HE DID TO MY FACE? I like how Deadpool doesn’t bog us down with it. Ok, maybe I have a little spoiler below.…

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best practices character selection self-advocacy

You’re not the boss of me

The other night, I gave a guest lecture to a public relations class of working professionals. The students had lots of stories and even more questions, including one that stuck with me. A major l’esprit de l’escalier situation. Too bad you can’t retrofit emotion. A student was tinkering with a story about an engineer (protagonist) who worked on a tricky project (full of obstacles) in order to save his company money (objective). She was stumped because she had the first layer of parts to start but couldn’t pinpoint…

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character selection self-advocacy

Oops, my protagonist is a token

The other day I heard a story in a workshop starring a “35 year old woman.” Of the thousands of characteristics or quirks the newbie storyteller could have given her, he chose gender and age and left it at that. It was trouble. There was no way to attach to this vague outline of a person and the whole room told him so. It was an easy mistake to make. Don’t let your characters sound like perps in a police report.…

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character selection

Stakeholders aren’t real characters

“Once upon a time there was a stakeholder…” Oh, that didn’t grab you? How about “and the stakeholders lived happily ever after…” No go either? Probably because stakeholders aren’t real characters in a story. The catch-all character doesn’t catch your listener. When I ask clients (less bluntly than this), “Who cares that you exist?,” they give me a list that is part real characters (Arts-lovers! Landlords! Our faculty! Child care providers!) and part vague catch-alls (Supporters! Allies! Partners! Everyone!). How…

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best practices character selection

You Say Community, I Say Crowd

Just a tiny word of caution about telling stories starring “the community.” Substitute the word “crowd” for “community” and see how it feels. For example, “Solutions to strengthen the local crowd.” The term is broad and ultimately yields a faceless mob. Be descriptive. Do your listener a favor and add descriptors (e.g., the Latinas over age 80 community). Once you have a descriptor in place, your listener will have a group he can picture. Truth is, once you have those…

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