From a Ramble to a Story

Earlier today, an aspiring speaker asked how to turn a 25 minute ramble, which he had already created, into a 10 minute story. By the way he asked, I could tell he knew it was about much more than shortening it; it was about giving it structure. He had a formless collection of ideas, and he wanted a work of art that could plug into the human mind and evoke change in the listener.

He may not have realized it, but he had actually taken the proper first step to write a story from scratch. Brainstorming is a useful first step in writing, no matter the project. His brainstorming just happened to be in spoken form. His intuition for the craft was excellent; he just needed a little information.

Here’s what I told him:

Decide what you message you want your story to have – what enemy you defeated, what lesson you learned, what change you made, or what have you. Choose the event from your ramble that serves as the hinge point of the conflict, lesson or change; that will be the turning point or climax of your story. Everything else in your story will support it.

Now choose the event in which you first meet the enemy or see the need for change, and put it first. Finally, choose several events between these two to illustrate the rising conflict, and make a mini-story from each one, relating them all to each other as you go along. This will be your basic story structure.

Once that is done, choose some descriptive elements to illustrate what life was like before the story begins and put those in an introduction, and likewise, choose some from after it ends for the wrap-up. This will show how the change has been fought for and achieved.

Now you have a hero’s journey, with stasis at the beginning, initiation into the “other” world with the first conflict, rising action building to a climax, resolution, and a higher level of stasis at the end. To see more, google “hero cycle” or “freytag’s pyramid.” Best of luck.

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