“Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Consequently, stories often pack more punch than sermons. Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story. Jesus did it. He called his stories ‘parables’.”— Janet Litherland
We love telling stories because Jesus loved telling stories. Whether it’s a personal testimony video of life transformation or a fictional slice of life drama that tells a relatable “me too” story of someone struggling with issues in their faith journey, story is what draws people in, softens hearts, and lets people own and discover their own steps of faith as opposed to being pushed forward by someone else with a list of bullet points.
I recently attended an incredibly helpful workshop called “Storytelling with Heart” run by a group of Filmmakers called Stillmotion. They use a story filter they call “The Muse” that narrows the focus of every story they capture. We recently started using their system, and it has been incredibly helpful to us.
We work as a team on everything. This filter helps clarify so many things that would often cause friction in the past because we each had our own individual lenses through which we were seeing the same story. We simply added one meeting beforehand where we discuss these steps and questions, and BOOM! Clarity, focus, unity, and cohesiveness issues were virtually eliminated! We want to pass this along to you as well. We tailored it slightly to fit our unique projects and workflow, but this is essentially all from their workshop. Hope it’s as helpful to you as it has been to us! Thanks, Stillmotion!
1.) WHO is the heart of your story?
What makes him or her unique?
What makes them complex?
What is his or her main desire?
2.) WHERE does the heart beat? (How do time and place affect the story?)
3.) WHAT does the heart want?
What type of conflict is it?
(Man vs…. man, himself, machine, nature, spiritual, society?)
(Note: conflict leads to journey.)
4.) What makes the heart beat faster?
What is your character’s strength?
How does he or she inspire you?
Why did this story happen?
Why are you choosing to do this story now?
How do you want your audience to feel?
What do you want your audience to do?
5.) CONSTRUCT: Choose your heart. Let the story speak.
Circle key words from questions above and make a list of 15-20 key words from the story. Then place these words in categories based on similarity.
6.) 5 Key Words: (the lens to filter every decision)
Choose five key words that find where complexity, uniqueness and desire live and show what the heart wants. Every choice you make comes back to these.
7.) PLOT: What is the story?
Beginning-(hook, introduce who and his or her desires, introduce conflict)-first 25%
Middle-(increase conflict/suspense/challenges, leading to climax)-50%
End- (provide the answers to questions, end with a punch)-25%
8.) PURPOSE: What does the story say? (theme, lesson, moral to the story, action step, mindset shift)