2019 Guide To Storytelling Online - Part 1
What is the Hero’s Journey?
Storytelling is arguably the only form of communication on the planet.
If you think about it, not much that’s communicated isn’t part of a story. Right now, you’re probably sitting in an established setting with things to do later today and most likely a main goal or two that needs to be accomplished. That in itself is a story.
What’s crazy is that our stories, although wildly different, follow a very similar structure. We see this structure often in books, films, and entertainment and it’s called the Hero’s Journey.
It’s no surprise that this same storytelling method can be used to not only communicate to your audience but to also better understand them and the role businesses play in their journey.
In this article, we will break down the heroes journey and get a better understanding of the parts of a story. In the next article, we will how to tie these different parts of a story into business.
What is storytelling? - Parts of A Story
1. Established Setting - Land of the Known
Establishing the setting of the hero is the initial hook of all stories. Good stories tell the viewer almost right away what kind of situation the hero is in. A classic example of this is the famous line - Once upon a time… In a land far far away. It doesn’t have to be extremely specific it just has to give the tone of where the character or characters are.
Think about the Movie Shrek. It begins very similarly. He’s reading a book and he talks about how the princess is locked away awaiting true loves first kiss, to which Shrek laughs and flushes the toilet.
2. Call to Adventure - Need For Help
The call to adventure is an event in which the Hero is called to action. This could be to go find someone or to go get answers on why something is a certain way or how a problem can get solved. For whatever reason our character is called to go somewhere they usually aren’t familiar with also known as “The Unknown” and this usually requires a little help from a supernatural aid or a mentor to help guide them.
Following along with Shrek, his call to adventure was for him to get his swamp back. As he asks the crowd of fairytale creatures where he can find Duloc we see the Mentor of the story ( Donkey ) jumping up and down eager to help Shrek get his swamp back.
3. Challenges - Trials
All heroes and stories have challenges along the way, especially towards the beginning after the story has established. Without trials or some sort of challenge, it’s hardly even a story at all. Thankfully our hero usually doesn’t have to face these challenges alone because they have their mentor to guide and help them at key moments.
In Shrek, the first challenge was to get to Duloc to get clarification. Donkey not only get’s Shrek to Duloc but also helps him convince Lord Farquhar to give Shrek a fair chance at his swamp and also teaches him a few things about onions along the way.
4. The Great Ordeal - Inner Most Cave
The big fight, The last battle, the great ordeal is commonly the grandest climax of a story normally taking place in “The Unknown”. This is when the Hero’s goals and fate are on the line. As if getting to this point didn’t feel hard enough for the hero, this event in itself is usually the hardest part of the story for the Hero.
Shrek and Donkey travel for what feels like days to get to the castle the princess is held in. Within a few minutes of arriving at the cave, Shrek is instantly faced with the Fiery Dragon in which Donkey proves himself yet again as a great helper when he seduces the Dragon long enough for Shrek to rescue the princess.
5. Return Home - Transformation
All heroes must return from their journey to the great ordeal and usually, they can’t help but learn a lesson or two along the way. Often times the Hero realizes that the battle is won but not solved. This is where transformation begins to take place. The hero can now head home with lessons learned and a newly found perspective budding.
As Shrek, Donkey, and Fiona return to Duloc. Shrek is faced with feelings of love for Fiona but also insecurities inside himself around being an ogre. This is a major transformation from the Shrek we met at the beginning of the story that originally flushed the toilet at the idea of true love.
6. Atonement - Aha Moment
Once the transformation really sinks in for the Hero, the Aha moment takes place. The atonement is the moment when it’s as if the Hero has all the answers they ever wanted. How does the hero get to this aha moment though? It’s not alone. It’s almost always without fail from advice or a magical gift from the mentor that helped them the whole way.
Donkey ends up teaching Shrek the most valuable lesson which was to use love and tenderness to win Fiona's heart. This was the magical gift donkey brought to the story. His ability to be loving and tender was something that Shrek really was able to grow and transformation from.
What does this have to do with business?
Well, you probably know the rest of Shrek so… What the heck does this have to do with business? Well to put in perspective, often when we talk about storytelling for business we talk about telling our company story. In actuality though, does it really make sense to tell our story? Maybe…
The truth is all individual people are the Hero of their own journey and pretty much no-one doesn’t like to see themselves as such. We know this true because of movies like Shrek. We relate to the character and his challenges effortlessly because we too can put ourselves in those shoes.
What we are getting at is that in business we want to not be the hero of the story we are telling but instead we want to be the Mentor. We want to guide our customers (The Hero) along with their journey. We want to help them face their greatest challenges and walk away with a new found perspective.
In the next article, we will break down each of these parts of a story and talk about how they directly relate to business marketing and storytelling.