In Three Uses of the Knife, a primer on drama by David Mamet, he states, “We require drama. It’s how we perceive the world.”
In my workshops, after we introduce ways to improve each person’s public speaking delivery, we dive headfirst into the basics of storytelling. Mamet writes, “We dramatize an incident by taking events and reordering them, elongating them, compressing them, so that we understand their personal meaning to us.” He then breaks it down to the atomic level: “Our survival mechanism orders the world into cause-effect-conclusion.” An easy way to remember this is to use the acronym CAR when organizing your story.
-Context: Answer who, when, and where? What does that person want? What is the obstacle getting in the way of them achieving their goal?
-Action: What happens when the goal and obstacle do battle?
-Result: What happens? Did the protagonist win or lose? How is the relevant to your audience?
In my workshops, attendees start with a simple event (something they had to buy that took some extra thought), then plug in the CAR structure. Using this method allows them to take just about any chunk of information—no matter how direly boring—and transform it into a compelling story.
As Mamet writes, we tell stories “…to order the universe into a comprehensible form.”