How to use the storytelling canvas

The storytelling canvas helps you to get a first overview of your story. It is based on Aristoteles 3 phase structure.
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You might know, storytelling is an ancient art. We started to tell stories when we were sitting by the fire. We told others what we have experienced while hunting for food.

Storytelling is an ancient art

Aristotle had defined three characteristics of his dialectical rhetoric. It is part in every story [1]:

  • the character of the hero (ethos)
  • the emotional state of the listener (pathos)
  • the argument (logos)

Storytelling works on this basis. The storytelling canvas makes it a little more tangible.

Hero

There is always a main protagonist. In business life this can be you or others, but also a product or an organization. Stories work best when human traits come to the fore.

Mentor

Often there is someone, with a good intention, who wants the hero to reach his goal. The mentor is helpful to bring in values and intentions from a "neutral" side. But the mentor is not necessary for a short story.

Purpose

What do you want to tell the story for? What is the purpose, for example, if they include it in a talk?

Background & Context

The "Background & Context" phase corresponds to the ethos. In business life, you don't have to go into epic breadth if the others know you. You can refer to things that increase understanding in the other phases, but are unknown to the audience.

This phase usually carries one or more hooks. These are elements that capture the attention of the audience. Suitable are unexpected surprises, identification with the hero or concrete details.

If the audience does not know the hero, they need a very precise description of the character and background. This is the reason why novels do not consist of 500 words. But in business life it has to be fast. You might want to include 2-3 stories in your 30 min presentation.

Actions

The "Actions" phase corresponds to the pathos. Here a new fact, a change, a challenge, or a conflict enters the life of the hero. The hero must face it. First he will reject changes, if necessary close his eyes. Later on the mentor points the hero to strengths and possibilities. Or the hero gets a hint or other resources from the mentor.

In this phase the emotions play a big role. The audience experiences the conflict in "thoughts" and directs attention to the actions of the hero. The excitement comes in. It is thus important to name the emotions. Only by doing so does the story become human.

 A mere enumeration of facts is counterproductive.

Stylistically holding elements extend the excitement. Recourse to the past, outlooks, hunches or inflection points work at this point. These elements are useful to give your audience more "joy" in the bath of emotions. However, you might miss the purpose of communication if the phase is too extended. Limit yourself to the most necessary elements.

Outcome

The "Outcome" phase corresponds to the logo. Here you can highlight the main point of telling the story. Before you do this, remove the excitement. Say how the story ended. This is necessary so that your audience can find inner peace. Through the emotions experienced, sympathy with the hero has developed.

Think about the emotions with which you want to release your audience from the story. Appeal to the higher values of your audience, like wholeness, perfection, justice, simplicity, richness, beauty, truth, uniqueness or playfulness.

Consider that your audience wants to see themselves as heroes. Everything you tell them is for the sole purpose of allowing the audience to have an emotional journey. Do not look at the story from your eyes, but from the audience's point of view.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotle

strategy

I work with clients who have the courage to grow.

Dr. Holger Laabs

founder and CEO
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