© 2013 Frank Ball
People who most need to hear our messages aren’t listening because they live in a video world that is more exciting than what they see in print. They watch four hours of television each day, but they don’t have time to read a book. Your story can be an exception to that rule, but only if it is captivating.
Begin with a Problem
Think of any problem that taught you something. What you learned changed your life in some small way. Or maybe the change was huge, bringing a drastic turn from where you thought you were headed. Whether great or small, your problem has the beginning of an interesting, perhaps heart-rending, life-changing story—if you know how to write it.
Set Up the Situation
Most people tell what happens, which may be news but tends to be boring. Great storytellers know how to set up the situation with a character we immediately care about, one who wants something important. Significant obstacles stand in the way. By showing, not telling, the circumstances, the storyteller pulls us into the situation and we want to find out what happens.
Remember the Details
The victory at the end often obscures the journey’s pain, mystery, and suspense, which are needed to bring your story to life. Follow your emotional journey. Reliving your pain may not be fun, but it’s essential to give meaning to the outcome. Each time you walk through the pain in telling your story, you reinforce your victory at the end.
Outline the SCOOP
Before you organize the details and begin to write, you need to list the five elements necessary to make your story captivating.
- Situation: The problem that gives the story purpose at the beginning
- Character: A hero whose desire matters most
- Objective: The passion the character is desperate to satisfy
- Obstacle: The conditions that put the goal’s fulfillment in doubt
- Plight: What the character risks in pursuit of what he or she needs
Define the Story’s Value
Your hero must walk out of the story different from who he or she was in the beginning. Without that, the audience experiences no change, and the story has no value. We must have Insight, Transformation, and Unresolved Problem—which spells SCOOP IT UP.
Frank Ball founded North Texas Christian Writers to help members improve their writing skills. He is a panelist on The Writers’ View, and his latest book is Eyewitness. He has worked as a ghostwriter, writer’s coach, e-zine columnist, and copy editor. As Pastor of Biblical Research and Writing for three years, he wrote sermons, teaching materials, and hundreds of devotionals. He founded HelpMeTellMyStory.com and speaks at churches and writing conferences to promote God’s story in people’s lives.