Tell me a story

Our legs buckled under the weight of the falling ceiling.

Desperately, we tried to push it back, but it kept getting heavier and heavier by the second. We crouched — arms outstretched — to support its weight and keep the whole thing from turning us into human pancakes.

Just when it looked like our fate was sealed, someone gave a signal. Instantly, the ceiling vanished — ONLY to be replaced by a wall with the same murderous intent. It was seemingly possessed by the garbage compactor from Star Wars. Another signal, and the wall turned into two mountains on both side, coming closer to give us the Worst Hug ever.

Finally, the instructor gave the last signal and all the things that tried to kill us vanished. Thdeathtrap of a room turned back into a plain conference hall.

We just survived our first IMPROV class. And from the smile plastered on everyone’s faces, it was the most fun we’ve had in a long time.

Storytelling, for business

The activity was part of a seminar titled “The Art of Storytelling’ as used in the business setting.

In my case, i was asked to attend by my boss, to up my presentation skills. Truthfully, it really did suck — I wasn’t the cocky, confident presentor I originally was, since everyone here intimidates me. My officemates are Lex Luthor-type geniuses, minus the balding and the obsession with muscular men clad in red-blue spandex.

The speaker was a guy named Voltaire, a theater actor who started as a “glorified car-wash” boy from Honda:

“I was so good at my job, I created a manual for proper carwashing techniques. It showed how to save water, how to wax the car properly, and so on. Finally, the manager said ‘give this guy a promotion.'”

“They gave me a tie and promoted me to Photocopier Boy. My first task? Mass producing my carwash manual.”

Eventually, he went on to become the most sought-after acting instructor in the country. He holds workshops for corporations, talent agencies and even religious organizations (because we’ve all had that boring pastor who made us want to switch religions, rather than endure another dull, hour-long sermon).

According to him, storytelling can be broken down into four parts: Normalcy, Incidence, Resolution, Insight.

If you apply this to your normal day, you’d have something like this:

Normalcy: Every 3pm, you go to the coffee machine and dial a cup of cappuccino.

Incidence: Disaster strikes when the machine explodes, coating you in radioactive coffee. Why it is radioactive is anyone’s guess.

Resolution: Through this freak accident, you now have the power to secrete coffee out of your pores. You have become “The Coffee Maker” — best friend of tired employees everywhere. But because of your gross powers, you can never ever find true love.

Insight: You wished you just went to Starbucks and saved yourself the trouble.

A good storyteller can persuade customers and make a sale. Or, he can get the client’s support in backing a project. He does this by showing two things: sincerity and vulnerability.

A good storyteller: sincere and vulnerable

Why these two traits in particular? Voltaire explained that people relate better to those who show vulnerability.

As a listener, you put your guard down and become more receptive towards a vulnerable person It’s because true vulnerability can only be achieved by revealing your innermost thoughts, embarrassing stories, or anything you wouldn’t normally reveal about yourself without first drinking beer.

It’s even better if what you reveal makes the other person laugh. That tiny chuckle basically means your foot is in the doorway, and there’s rapport. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked to be the best man of his wedding one day.

On sincerity, this appeals more to the ethics of storyteller.

A charming speaker can twirl the audience through his fingers, and most often, the temptation to manipulate them is too hard to resist. It’s no coincidence that most dictators elected into office are also some of the most compelling storytellers.

Mr. Storyteller Man

That part struck me the hardest, because I could relate it to my craft.

Sincerity and Vulnerability. The two things that’s currently missing in my writing.

Maybe I have become too concerned with the audience, too self-conscious for my own good that I have closed myself off to the world (thus losing my vulnerability). I often resort to shallow topics, or hold back when I vent, making any post I make feel insincere.

It scares me that writing has become a means to FEEL something, unlike back then, when I wrote because of a tidal wave of emotions. What’s even scarier is the thought that it’s an irreversible process.

The story of a writer’s life, right?


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