Storytelling – lessons from my 10 year old

I was recently helping my daughter with some research on a topic for her class presentation. As we googled the subject, I was teaching her how to develop story content by pulling out the salient points on the topic to include in her report.

What I found interesting about the topic, she obviously didn’t with the response…

“Mom, they already know that. I don’t want to bore my audience to death. If I include that, they’ll all fall asleep on me.”

She continued to draw on facts and tidbits she thought her class might find interesting. The fact that she didn’t pull the key elements to the story in chronological order didn’t matter to her.

What did matter to her was that she was telling the story in her own way, creating a story that she thought would engage her audience with information she felt was relevant and interesting.

Image of kids shoes

Wow! At age 10, she already knows the fundamental concept of storytelling.

Put yourself in your their shoes

As this little 360 degree lesson taught by my daughter reminds us, you have to put yourself in your audiences’ shoes… it will give you a new perspective when developing your story. To effectively get your ideas across, you must first figure out who your audience is, what they currently know and what more they want to know.

Then, think about how to guide them from their current knowledge to what you need them to know to get them to respond (call, visit, sign-up). To do this, try answering the following questions:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What does my audience already know about the topic?
  • What does my audience need to know?
  • What questions will my audience have?
  • What’s the best outcome for telling my story? What do I need to say to get my point across?
  • What’s the best outcome for my audience? What do I need to say to get them to act?

Identifying your audience needs will do more than ensure that you write clearly. It will help you create a story that is relevant, engaging and personal, directly targeted to your audience.

Elementary, isn’t it?


About the Author
Deanna White has always been passionate about marketing and public relations. Owner of storylinePR, Deanna is best known for taking it beyond the pitch. For building brands & bottom lines with the right channels to share your story.

a gift that lasts a lifetime

[tweetmeme source=”storylinePR” only_single=false]I introduced reading to my daughter at an early age.  Perhaps it is because of my line of business, but I have witnessed firsthand how reading creates a strong foundation for children. Word recognition, comprehension abilities, listening skills and self-confidence building are all fostered through the reading experience.   It is a proven fact that children who develop a love for books and reading have a better chance at success in school and in later life.

That’s why storylinePR is supporting the Ottawa Citizen Raise-a-Reader campaign whose goal is to increase awareness and raise money for children’s literacy programs in Ottawa.   This years’ Ottawa Citizen Raise a Reader Day is scheduled for Wednesday, September 29, 2010.  All funds will to be distributed to charities with family literacy programs through the Ottawa Citizen Literacy Foundation through the Community Foundation of Ottawa.

For me, I find the greatest benefit is in the parent/child reading experience itself.  It comes from the cuddle, the bonding, the joy of the moment and witnessing the learning process.  If you’re a parent, I’m sure you can understand that sentiment. No matter how crazy my business is, I always take time to ready to my daughter, every single day.  Instilling a love of reading in a child is giving them a gift which will last a lifetime!

little choices… big rewards

The stories I generally create for Storyline for kids reflects a recent activity, outing or interest my daughter has and after mulling the storyline though my mind, it progresses into what I thought would be engaging to a toddler. However, with Madeline’s input, the storyline usually takes a complete 180 degree turn from what I had envisioned. The nighttime ritual goes something like this…

Once we are all tucked into bed, I lie down beside her and recite my latest story that I have concocted. “Once upon a time, there was a girl named Madeline who went on an adventure in the woods. She spotted a squirrel…” and before I can finish the thought – I get a “no mama – not a squirrel – a bear”. “Oh, how silly of me. Of course, a bear,” I say chuckling out loud and continue with the bear going to the stream to fish for his lunch instead of a squirrel climbing the tree to find his. “The bear looked in the water spotted the most colourful fish in the stream with …” Immediately- on cue – I hear a sleepy little voice say “No mama – not a fish, he saw a beaver – that built a house in the water” – “OK – the bear met a beaver who built a dam. The stream had turned into just a trickle of water that now forms a small creek and he can’t seem to find a single fish.” And so, needless to say, the story is re-created each night. And each night – we go through the evolving storyline until we get it right. How do I know? When I can run through the entire story without her wanting to change a single thing. The satisfied smile on her face as she drifts off to sleep is when I am convinced it’s finally done.

As a parent, I introduced choices at an early age. It helps in the development of cognitive abilities and teaches independence. Choice is a skill that children will use for the rest of their lives. I truly believe that by providing opportunities for children to make choices about little things when they are small, will better prepare them to make choices about big things when they grow older. By giving Madeline the opportunity to craft each story with me, it not only builds her confidence and character, but also feeds her little imagination.

The story is a masterpiece in Madeline’s eyes and is, not surprisingly, a hit with all her little friends. Madeline and her friends have become a mini-focus group for me, in every sense of the word. I pay them well, (in toddler terms – free storybooks with their names highlighted as the main character), and I get what I need in terms of feedback from my target audience. Choice gives kids a say and makes them feel important. After all, shouldn’t all children feel important? I often laugh to myself and wonder who is the one getting the education here, but in the end I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that we both end up the heroes of each story.

connecting the dots

Every parent can appreciate the strong foundation for the school years that reading at home creates for the preschooler. Word recognition, comprehension abilities, and listening skills are all fostered through the parent – child reading experience. The greatest benefit of preschool reading is in the experience itself. It comes from the cuddle, the bonding, the joy of the moment and the learning process. Parent-to-parent, I’m sure you can understand that sentiment. I have witnessed evidence to support this with my three year old daughter, Madeline.

Madeline enjoyed reading stories and would beam with joy when I changed the main character’s name to her own name. Creative writing is my business, so I began spinning new stories for Madeline with all her favorite things woven into each adventure. It makes learning entertaining because she is reading about herself, her friends and family making it a unique and fun experience. She has benefited tremendously and enjoys story time more than ever! Originally created for Madeline as the star of the story, they encourage her to read with my input into positive, healthy and wholesome messaging. Instead of providing these stories just to my Madeline, I wanted to broaden my enjoyment and share these stories for other parents to experience with their own children… and shortly after – Storyline for kids was born.

I read a commencement address some time ago made to students of Stanford by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios that really hit home. If you haven’t read it – I suggest you google it – well worth the read. He spoke about his life experiences and one story in particular was about how you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards into past events. Who knew when I created these stories for Madeline that they would naturally evolve into my business and be such a huge hit for parents. I have created three stories so far and intend to create many more. At the time, I figured any extra incentive which can encourage Madeline to enjoy reading had to be positive. But now looking back and connecting the dots – it all makes sense now. A truly a humbling experience.

Like the address Steve Jobs made, I will leave you with one parting thought… No matter how busy your business life is, remember the importance of the reading experience and PLEASE READ WITH YOUR CHILD! Instilling a love of reading in a child is giving them a gift which will last a lifetime!