4 Ideas to Make Storytelling Easier

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I’ve gotten some questions recently about storytelling, and I thought I wold share some of the discussion with everyone. First, let me clarify what I mean about storytelling.

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Tips for telling your story

To me, storytelling can be anytime you’re telling people something. That could be in the traditional sense like a novel or autobiography, or in a marketing sense like a marketing or social media campaign. Instructional design, script writing and video production as well as content development can all fall under storytelling – you’re trying to share information or persuade someone by telling someone something. I look at all these things as storytelling because it puts you more in the mind of getting your information out in a creative and/or interesting way that is more likely to hold interest and make an impact.

With that out of the way,  let’s look at 4 ideas (and a bonus tip) that will hopefully make storytelling easier for you.

  1. Who cares? I know, everyone should care about what you have to say. Unfortunately, that’s not actually true. So ask yourself, who am I telling this story to? Who is going to care from the first word, and who do I want to make care? Spend a few minutes thinking about the audience the piece is for and what you want them to take away from the story your telling.
    Old photo from New Your Times Newsroom of reporters working, on phone and reading

    These guys might care….

    I know that’s the first step in any kind of writing, but too often I see people trying to tell a story, market something or teach something taking a shotgun approach – spreading the information as thin as you can to try to reach as many people as possible. The majority of the time that only makes the story boring and too diluted to have the impact you want.

  2. Watch your language. It’s no secret that when people write for business they write more formally, it’s what we’ve all been taught. But, that’s not always the best option. You need to look at the audience and the story you’re telling. If you’re talking about profit and loss margins something more formal is probably the best choice. If you’re talking about a client’s theme park or telling people about the time you were having such a run of bad luck that your left shoe fell down a sewer grate and you never saw it again, you probably want to be a little more informal.

    What do I mean by informal? Using contractions for one. A lot of people seem to have issues using contractions in their writing, and that quickly makes everything more formal. Word choice is important too! Using slang can also be a big help in making what you’re writing more approachable. If your writing a young adult (YA) romance novel and say, “Would you like to go spend time at the local shopping complex?” versus, “Do you want to go hang out at the mall?” your reader is going to feel like they’re reading a text book – and chances are if they’re reading a YA romance novel they probably get enough of text books in their daily lives and won’t give your novel the time of day.

  3. Let your Medium guide you. I’m not talking about Madam Elaine, Psychic to the
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    Let your medium Guide you!

    Masses, I’m talking about the medium you’re using to tell the story. Are you telling your story verbally or in writing? Are you doing a slide show presentation or blog post? Consider the length of time or space you have to tell the story. Shorten or expand as necessary.

  4.  Say it out loud! One of the easiest and fastest ways to check on how your story sounds is to read it out loud to yourself. Listen to how it sounds. Does it sound too formal? Not formal enough? Is there a sentence that’s hard to understand when you hear it? Is it something that is easy to understand and hit the notes you’re looking to hit? The answers to questions like these will tell you a lot about the writing style you used for the piece (or your writing style in general) and the how others will hear it – even when they read to themselves most of your audience will be hearing their voice saying the words so in a way they are hearing it out loud.

    Bonus TIP! Reverse it! If you’re worried that your writing style or speaking style is too formal and you want to work on that, start verbally rather than in writing. This especially works well if you’re telling your life stories. Record yourself telling the story verbally before you start to write. Listen to it carefully. What do you notice about how you tell the story? Is your word choice different than when you write? Are your sentences shorter? Do you use a storytelling voice that is warm and approachable? Keep these things in mind when you start to write and see the difference it can make in the final product!

I would love to hear from you! Drop me a note and let me know what you think of the post and what tips or ideas you have to make storytelling easier!

Tell Me a Story Tuesday – New Job Edition

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It’s time for another installment of Tell Me a Story Tuesday! I thought I would go with something a little different this time, so I’m looking for your stories about starting a new job. Did you end up with the flu? Half a day late? Did the business close the day you started? Or, do you have a story about a new employee that you were helping to bring on board? I want to hear all of them!

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Did you get to work & find this waiting for you? Tell me about it!

As always, the carefully handcrafted rules are in place. It doesn’t need to be long…it doesn’t need to be good…it doesn’t even need to be true (hey for all I know you could shown up to your first day wearing a bunny costume!) just tell us about your story in the comment section below. If it’s long story, or if you’d rather put it on your site, no worries just post the link.

In 3, 2,1…tell me a story!

No No NaNoWriMo

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The beginning of December means the end of this year’s National Novel Writing Month. I had three previous attempts with one win (last year) with NaNoWriMo. I thought long and hard about entering again this year, and decided not to. And, while it might have been tough seeing all the updates and people reaching the goal, I think it was the right decision.

For one thing I’m still working on the novel I wrote last year. There are some parts I’m really proud of…but the ending horrible. My most recent attempt at “fixing” it included lopping off the last quarter of what I had and starting on writing a whole new second half for it. Not pretty. Very depressing. Very necessary.

There’s also a story I’ve been working on in bits and pieces for the last few years. It’s one of my sanity stories. You know what I mean, one of the stories I go to when I need to take my mind off of things and get lost in something. I truly love this story and most of the time the words flow pretty easily. Perfect for NaNoWriMo you say, nope — the novel you write can’t use previously written content. Since I already have five chapters and lots of snippets of scenes and dialogue that I really, really like, I didn’t want to start over from scratch – honestly it would feel like a waste of time to rewrite what I had rather working on what I don’t have.

Which leads me to the third thing, time. If you’re going to take on a challenge like writing over 50,000 words in a month, then you need to give everything you have to the task. My life is very different from what it was in November last year, each day is a new challenge with two kids being cyber schooled and living with my in-laws. That’s not good or bad, it just is. I knew in September when I started thinking about prepping for this years NaNoWriMo that I didn’t have the same fire that I did last year. My head and heart are pulling in too many directions for me to focus on writing for hours at a time every day.

And, I think that’s okay. In 2011 and 2012, I just pushed to write everyday and was happy that I did. Which is fine too. I knew those years that I didn’t have the kind of time I needed to get a novel written but I had the fire to write. This year I knew that my time and my heart weren’t where they needed to be, so this was the year not to push it. I think I would have felt worse not finishing this year, so why punish myself?

Would I have liked to, sure. Will I try again, probably. But I need to know that I have the right focus, and maybe more importantly the right story. This year just wasn’t the year.

Congratulations to the winners. Congratulations too to those to who didn’t make it but gave it shot, any time you get words out of your mind and out in the world is an accomplishment. Amazing effort by you all and you should be very proud no matter how many words are on the page!

Telling Your Organization’s Story – Find the Passion

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I’ve been telling a lot of stories lately, but let’s take a few minutes and talk about telling your organization’s story. You see, people don’t just have stories, businesses and other organizations like non-profits do too. And, being able to tell the story of your small business, or non-profit organization, can go a long way in helping it be successful.

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Who is telling your organization’s story?

Part of your business’ or organization’s story is tied to the person(s) who dreamed up the idea to start it in the first place, and that’s where its story starts. Just like the story of what makes you who you are has ups and downs, struggles and successes, so does your business or non-profit. But it has something that makes a huge difference when telling its story that other stories don’t. You.

Your passion, and if you’re willing to take the time and energy to start a business or be involved in a non-profit then you do feel passionately about it, is what really sets the story apart. It’s the passion you feel and bring to your organization’s story that makes the difference. No one can tell that story than you and the people in the trenches with you can.

Don’t worry if you’re not a “marketing” person. Or if you don’t know anything about social media. These things can be learned, and I hope in the coming weeks I’ll be able to help a little bit. What you can’t learn is the drive and the passion you feel for your business or non-profit. That fire begins and ends with you. That is the most important part of telling your organization’s story.

You are the storyteller! Are you ready to start telling your story?

Did I Ever Tell You About the Time….I Was A Giant Pickle

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Working in small market television is a strange and wonderful experience filled with weird and amazing things that most people may be surprised to hear about. The flutter of phone calls reporting first robin sighting each spring…the UFO sightings around the full moon (I kid you not)…I will gladly be sharing some of these stories as we go along. But first, as promised……Did I ever tell you about the time I was a giant pickle?

Sitting in the convertible was a challenge. It pushed the air holes to the top of my head making it hard to breathe.

Sitting in the convertible was a challenge. It pushed the air holes to the top of my head making it hard to breathe.

I was working at WWCP-FOX 8 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania when I found about the chance to become a pickle mascot. It wasn’t my grand plan or something, the opportunity presented itself and I seized the gherkin. I started full-time in Production Department during my last semester in college and worked my way up from Technical Director to Promotions Producer. It was a fancy way of saying I worked the 4AM to 1 PM (but usually it was when I could finally get out of there for the day) doing morning news cut-ins and any promos (the commercials for TV shows) or promotional videos that needed edited or produced. I took promo feeds and checked faxes for changes to schedules, helped come up with ideas for local campaigns, etc.

It was on one of the national feeds for a Fox Sports Kids’ show we aired called In The Zone (followed by a fax a few days later) that I saw about a marketing campaign they were going to try to create a new mascot call the In the Zone In A Pickle Pickle. They were only going to let 20 or 25 affiliates have the first test mascots so we had to act fast if we were going to get in on the ground floor of this thing. Our Promotions Director wasn’t too sure about it, especially when she realized that the only employee at the station that met the 5′ to 5’4″ requirement was me. Having only one person who fit in the costume could limit the number appearances and would prevent me from getting a break when we were out places. Thankfully I was volunteering with some very willing (i.e. gullible) high school students who just turned 18 and volunteered to be Jr. Pickle People! We faxed off the form and were selected as a test market.

Our Pickle debut was at Mascot Night for the (now defunct) local pro baseball team, the Johnstown Johnnies (whose own mascot was a giant baseball head…thing…think sort of the Headless Horseman only in a baseball uniform and with a giant baseball with a head instead of a pumpkin)***. It was in the 80’s and about 70% humidity. Perfect night to be wearing a felt and foam suit with Lycra pants. I was joined by the star of the evening, the Pittsburgh Pirate Parrot, who turned to be out a really cool guy, as well as the walking teddy from a local hospital and a couple of other regional mascots.

Free Rides for pickles

Free Rides for pickles

Since our station was one of the sponsors I got to ride around the track in a white convertible driven by Chris, my official “Pickle Wrangler” and body-guard for the night. I thought I might get to cool off, but when I sat down it pushed the air vents over my head and I almost passed out. On the plus side both the Pittsburgh Parrot and I got to throw out the first pitch. Between the giant three finger felt gloves and the fact that I couldn’t move my arms all that well and when I moved my arms past my shoulders I couldn’t see out the eye holes anymore (and lost sight of the catcher) let’s just say the ball did not reach the plate and leave it at that.

We had big introductions of all the mascots between the 1st and 2nd innings so we had to wait under the home dugout for our big moment. The Parrot was on stilts, like you do for special occasions, leaning over the top of the vending machine. I was dressed as a giant pickle and was leaning against the wall. The Giant Baseball Head Guy kept pour drinks down through the gaping hole in his mouth. The life-size Teddy Bear was leaning against the other wall. We were talking about 401(k) versus IRA investments…with the large talking bird giving some really great advice when the “Pickle Wranger” burst out laughing and doubled over. “This is the strangest conversation I have been a part of in my entire life.” The four of us looked around and shrugged. The Parrot saying that this was one of the more normal things he’s done.

Pickle Mascot on the Ground

The Pittsburgh Pirate Parrot tried to give me a hug but I ended up falling over. You can see him trying to escape the kids rushing to help the “Green M&M” back up.

I actually had a great time with the Parrot. We got along great and interacted with each other in the stands. He came over to give me a hug at one point and neither one of us realized how top heavy my costume was. Until I lost my balance. I heard him say. “Just relax, I’ll put you down.” I knew I was well padded so I just went with it and the next thing I knew I was looking at the sky. A bunch of kids had surrounded us by that time and started yelling at the poor guy for tackling the green M&M. Then the kids tried to help me up, yeah that didn’t go well. Pickle Wrangler Chris to the rescue.

The big problem with the costume was that it didn’t necessarily look like a pickle. It was big. It was green. It was bumpy. Most the bumps were covered by the baseball jersey. And the stem at the top didn’t look all that stem like. Most people really did think I was a giant green M&M, peanut to be specific. I was also called a jelly bean. And a pepper. No one guessed pickle.

The pickle wasn’t as scary as some of the other mascots (I’m looking at you Big Baseball Head Guy!) and since most people thought he was candy he was pretty well accepted. Well by everyone but my niece who decided The Pickle was the Spawn of Satan. But The Pickle could not be denied and she warmed up to him.

Child crying at sight of pickle mascot

Only my niece seemed convinced that The Pickle was evil.

Pickle Mascot and child waving at camera

The Pickle wins hearts and minds of small children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think I lost close to 10 pounds by the time the night was over. When I finally took a break out of the costume and slipped into the stands somewhere in the 6th or 7th inning the Parrot spotted me and attacked my husband and I with a super soaker. When we were in the dressing room talking I mentioned that I had recently gotten married and he said he wife came with him, so after he soaked us he went and sprayed a woman who looked like she was going to kill him and then pointed at himself. I gave him a thumbs up and told my husband it must be the Parrots wife. Again…strange conversations you don’t expect to have at the ball park.

Man and Mascot Pickle

I doubt my husband saw this coming we got married a few months earlier.

The Jr Pickles took over most pickle duties and I was the wrangler after that. We did a blood drive or two. But the whole In the Zone In A Pickle test period was really only about six weeks, so we didn’t get to do all that much. By the next summer I wasn’t at the station any more and I never heard another word about The Pickle.

***I’ve searched for a picture of the Johnnies mascot but couldn’t find one. If anyone out there has a picture, or a link to one, I would LOVE to include it. Please share it in the comments section below!! Thanks!

I’d also love to hear from anyone who was ever a Pickle or involved in the project! Leave a message below!

Seeing that this week is San Diego Comic-Con, and I took my girls to their first con a few weeks ago, I’ve got cons on the brain. Did I ever tell you about my con experiences? Tune in next time!

Did I Ever Tell You About…How I Got My L.E.G.S.?

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Welcome to my first Did I Ever Tell You About…story! This one answers a question some of you may have about something you may have noticed…

I was born Lorie Elaine Gindlesperger. A little long and a lot of letters, especially when you’re in grade school, so I used my initials on the second page of tests and homework. When I got to 4th Grade a clever teacher (or at least a teacher who thought he was clever), started adding an ” ‘s ” to my initials and calling me L.E.G.’s. He would even sing a line from the popular ZZ Top song proclaiming I had legs and I apparently knew how to use them.

L.E.G.S.

I’m L.E.G.S.

Now, my parents said that they never realized that my initials spelled LEG. They liked my first name and my middle name was chosen as an agreement with my older brother (another story for another time). Regardless, by the end of 4th grade I was dubbed LEG’s and I embraced it. I used LEG’s all through high school and college to sign messages and notes. I wrote it on things that belonged to me. People started using it a nickname. I even decided that I wanted my own LEG’s production company, complete with a leggy logo.

L.E.G.’s became my alter ego. It was cute. It was fun. L.E.G.’s was a little more edgy, took more risks and was a lot more fun than I felt more days. Then I met my husband.

At the end of our second date he looked at me and said, “You know this is meant to be don’t you?”

“Oh reeeaaaaallllllly,” I said skeptically.

“Yes. Because you’ll finally have your ‘S’.”

16 months later I did in fact get my ‘S’. When I tell this story my husband likes to say it’s why I married him….well it didn’t hurt.

It’s because of that pesky ” ‘s ” that turned into a “S.” that I use Lorie E.G. Singer as my professional name. It’s a nod to who I was, who I am, and who I want to be.

And that my friends, is how I got my L.E.G.S.!

Do you have a clever or unique nickname? Share the story in comments below!

Great Discussion on Storytelling in Business

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I had a great time at the Storytelling in Business panel sponsored by NAWBO Pittsburgh. I met some really cool people and we had awesome discussion. We had business owners and authors who were really interested in storytelling.

It was an honor sharing the panel with the amazing and talented Joyce Faulkner, Dorit Sasson, and Elizabeth Speed. They are amazing women, and I highly suggest you check out their work…follow them on all the social sites…you’ll be glad you did.

I’m working on a post to follow-up the panel for NAWBO to post. You’ll hear more about that in the next couple of weeks. All the talk about telling stories has really rekindled my storytelling fire and excited to be back at work on all of my projects. Now to find enough hours in the day for them all…