One of the biggest pet peeves on the planet, according to me, is the prima-donna, all-about-me writer. Whether these people are on page or stage, their stories usually start with their favourite word: me, me, me — not you! — meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Sigh. Don’t know what I mean? Visit the black hole called Facebook. Or choke down that charming phrase “We’re all in this together.”
“Me” stories are best when they’re “we” stories; narratives that remind us of our goodness and shared humanity. If you’re telling a story with you as the hero or heroine (“I’m the best!”), consider dropping your pom-poms and reframing who’s the star.
Hint: not you.
Make the story about them. About us, together and united. You want your audience to feel and tap into the collective ridiculousness, and glory, of being flawed, fabulous creatures living through another (pandemic) day.
So how do you know when to stay out of your story? How do you decide if you have a part to play in the plot? By answering the following three questions about you, your story and <drum roll> your audience.
Question #1: Am I participating in the story? Let’s use an example about you running a race. You’re not just telling a story about a road race and how out-of-shape you are. You’re running with your dad and brother on Father’s Day. (Oh, fine! Make it a virtual race but let’s pretend life is sorta normal and mask-free.)
Running a race with your family is a good “me, me” story because it’s not just about you. We all have poppas and mammas. We all run with our families one way or the other. And yes, sometimes they lace up and chase us into oncoming traffic!
Question #2: Do I have a personal perspective on the story? What if your father and brother are both cancer survivors and your favourite uncle was taken by cancer last year? Do you share that information? Yes, sweetheart, you do.
Running the race is how you and your family are grieving and celebrating your uncle’s life. Ah! That’s a big story. A personal experience is transformed into a universal tale. Love, loss, sorrow, celebration, forgiveness, redemption, struggle, success – that’s LIFE, baby. There’s a lot more going on than “your” story.
Question #3: How much personality can I add to the story? As much as you want. This is your show, kind heart. You don’t need to hide behind clichés (never), data dumps (numbers) or other people’s words (Maya Angelou).
Comment on how much the race means to you, your dad and your bro. This race has been a hard-won battle and people will understand – and feel – what you’re saying and sharing. When you show who you are through a story that’s authentic, candid and courageous, people care about you.
Your story becomes their story too.
Say it with me, Story Sisters and Beacon Brothers! “The more personal the story <say it!> the more universal the story.”
Here’s a fill-in-the-blank trick that strengthens the connection between you, me and 7.8 billion beautiful people: “In writing about the experience of blah blah, I’m really writing/ speaking about blah blah because I really, really want people to know blah blah.”
Voila! Now run out there, find your story and make your story all about you… and us.
More (winter) Light!
Shine on, story on, Zoom on, sweet storyteller!
♥ Shannon ♥