Monday, June 12, 2017

Telling a story

Got business development responsibilities? A lot of project managers get involved in supporting sales rain-making, proposal development, and general marketing support.

Here's a Kahn Academy video series on structuring a story. This stuff is taken from Pixar, who should certainly know how to do it.

Although you may not be making a movie, video, or commercial, the ideas of structure apply universally.
  • Story spine -- more less the path through the story
  • Theme -- the encapsulation of the story's point or lesson -- the memorable core idea that sticks with you
  • Acts -- really, just reduction applied to the theme in which are the "what and why" actions.
They talk about the standard 3-act structure:
  1. Set-up
  2. Middle actions
  3. Wrap-up or climax
Theme connects to structure
Of course, a test to be made along the way is that the story, as it unfolds, connects to the theme. This may even lead to backward engineering on the theme: first comes the story; second, the theme is derived. This is consequential to the idea of "evolution" ... no big theme up front.

Story beats
A new idea to me that came out of the video on "structure" was the idea of "story beats". Beats are "what" vs "why" that collectively build the theme. They are generally of the form "because of XXX, then Y". Collect the beats -- probably a couple for each act -- and the theme should be obvious.

 If you're writing a proposal, there's a lot to be learned and applied from this video series.

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