Why Use Stories?

It’s not like we don’t get why. It’s not the physical properties of a luxury auto, candlelight dinner or top model looks that we want. What we want are the feelings, the emotions, the experiences that we perceive those things can make us feel. The emotion a story delivers directly influences how we feel about ourselves vis-à-vis a product, a service or competitor.

A perfectly happy client can turn into an unhappy customer if she hears another client received a better offer, then turn back into a happy customer when you assure her the story she heard was false, circulated by an unethical rival. If you think about this, nothing physically changed. But your story about reality completely changed her perceptions of what is true, and consequently, real.

Change the story and you change the meaning of factual reality. Appreciating the power stories can exert is both an exciting opportunity and awesome responsibility. As Obi-wan Kenobi memorably told Spielberg’s reluctant hero, “Use the Force Luke, use the Force!”

None of that “why stuff” matters if we don’t know HOW


With all we’ve learned from science and research about WHY stories work – none of it really matters if we don’t know HOW to find, craft and tell our own stories for personal or professional gain.

Every month I try to get to at least 3-4 meetups where I run into entrepreneurs and startup founders who are totally passionate about their business and have great ideas to build the next new new thing. I can tell they believe in it to the same degree Morpheus does in the scene from Matrix where the Oracle tells Neo: “… he believes in it (that you’re the ONE) so much, he will sacrifice his own life for it.”

Then later on my way home, I’m wishing above all else, that these driven, talented and determined women and men, would learn how to tell a purposeful story.  A story that will move their listener to help them get the funds, or partners, or sales or whatever they need to get to the next level. I want them to learn how to tell purposeful stories because ideas, startups and people don’t grow in isolation.

The secret to designing a good story is open source

I’ve made it my personal mission to spread the news the mystery of how to design good stories was solved in 1949 and put into the public domain where it remains to this day. Download it right now. Here’s the link: to Campbell monomyth.

Looks complicated? Don’t be discouraged, treasure maps can be confusing the first time you lay eyes on one. But it’s worth learning about because the treasure this map can lead to is infinitely more valuable than any pirate treasure or Swiss bank account of an overthrown African dictator could ever be. For one thing, we can use the map a thousand times over and always be led to find a new treasure. Or a thousand different people can use it and not one will end up with the same treasure.

Here are only a few famous screenplays that apply the Hero’s Journey to great effect (and gazillions of dollars): Avatar, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, The Lion King, Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Chinatown, Casablanca, etc.

But hang on, Campbell’s blueprint is not a magic wand, nor is it a fill-in-the-blank template. Think of it like code: you’ve been given an amazing script, but it doesn’t mean if you paste it into your code you will have a killer app.

Applying Campbell’s blueprint to craft better stories

What it does mean is if you include the elements and move your story’s hero from his known world into the unknown and travel through different stages on his journey, your stories have a real chance of resonating with your listener.

Which elements and in what order you ask? I hate to say this but it depends … It depends on the purpose of your story. It depends on your audience; it depends on your own imagination. The good thing is the Hero’s Journey blueprint is endlessly adaptable and works for fiction, fantasy, memoir, creative non-fiction and every genre of story there is. It will work for you too.


I’ve coined an acronym and designed what I call the S.T.O.R.Y. Framework http://www.joelblom.net/project/how/  to make Campbell’s masterwork more accessible and useful to all the extraordinary people who have a story inside that needs to be told.

If you found this post helpful, then you will love what we’re doing at the Zurich Storytellers meetup: http://www.meetup.com/Zurich-Storytellers-Meetup/

Impact Hub’s newest Tribe where storytellers of all stripes are welcome.

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