What child in your life have you been proud of? Why were you proud? Last week I made it a priority to visit my nephew at his college. He’s a senior at the University of Maryland. He was the MC for a big event with over 1,000 students to raise money for kids who have major health challenges.
As if I wasn’t proud enough, during the event I decided to get into the spirit and have FTC (For The Kids) painted on my face. When I walked over to the table where they were doing the face painting, two young men were standing there. I asked if one of them would do the honors for me. One of them was willing to help an old guy out. The young man who helped me seemed kind and accommodating. We made some small talk, and I mentioned that my nephew Matthew was the MC for the event. As soon as I said that, the young man’s face lit up. He enthusiastically exclaimed, “He’s awesome!” He went on to tell me that my nephew had helped him during his orientation when he first started at U.M.D.
I could see that he was moved by who Matthew is by the way he spoke of my nephew. It was obvious that Matthew had made quite an impression on this young man whom I had just met.
To say I was quite proud of my nephew is an understatement. Sometimes we learn more about the people closest to us through other people in their lives. The young man’s instantaneous enthusiasm spoke volumes to me.
When you tell stories, are there moments that speak volumes? Are there parts of your stories where much of the story is told without words? Do you show the emotions of your characters? What spoke volumes to me was the instantaneous enthusiasm. The story was told more in the reaction than with words.
I sent out a survey to my customers and to my Stage Time subscribers asking them, “What are your biggest storytelling challenges?” One challenge that came up was, “How do you bring a story to life?” Great question. One way is to make sure you are showing reactions in your story. This is one thing I see lacking when coaching speakers in their storytelling. Reactions tell the story.
One key to showing the reaction is to show the pre-action. What is the demeanor of your character before the change hits? It is easier to show the change when you get clear on the before-and-after emotion. In this story that you just read about my nephew, you knew that the young man was kind and accommodating. This is the pre-action that must be communicated to be able to show the change. How can you change something that is not yet established? You can’t.
One crucial ingredient needed to bring a story to life is to show pre-action so we can see the reaction clearly. Does that make sense? Sure, reading it here in this article makes sense, but how can you apply this idea to one of your stories? I would not have had such a feeling of pride about my nephew if the other young man had simply said, “Yeah, I know Matt; he’s cool,” especially if his words had been delivered in a monotone. How can you apply this idea to one of your stories? Want me to be proud of you? I will be if you put this into action. I’ll be excited when I see you clearly communicating the pre-action to set up your character’s reaction. Clearly showing that change will not only bring your story to life, but it will also help you to move your audience deeply.
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