Use Pattern Recognition to Make Your Personal Story Memorable

April 5, 2013

Characters, meaning, revelation

When people sit down to write an account of their lives or work, many times they begin with the timeline and try to tell everything that happened between the beginning and the end. But there are patterns to see and follow that tell your story in a much more significant way.

Nature organizes its expression in patterns…in petals, symmetry, cycles, rhythm. In the same way, our stories organize themselves into characters, meaning, revelation. This is true for business stories and book outlines, big booming brand stories, and homegrown tales spun on the back porch at sunset.

An inherent language

You can tell your story in a memorable way when you invite readers (and listeners) to recognize the patterns we all understand. Every story has them. They are made of these patterns because our stories are made of us. Help your listeners to hear the inherent language we all share by looking at your story and identifying:

Who are the characters?
What is the time span of the story?
Who is the main character, or the what we call the hero, of the story?
What matters to the characters at the beginning of the story?
What matters to the characters by the end?
How is this hero different at the end of the story than in the beginning — emotionally, physically, in attitude or position?
How does this story matter to the reader/listener? Or to you, the teller?
Tell the details that 1) matter to the listener, and 2) move the story to its end.
Rule of thumb: If it matters to you, and your details show us how and why, it’ll probably matter to us.

Every story collects around these elements. Every hero learns something, or catalyzes something, or comes to a conclusion. Every hero takes a journey, no matter how small.

Journey markers make it matter

In our human lives, we are each taking journeys, and the points we want to share shape their own story arcs inside our bigger paths. Whether we recognize it or not, these elements are what we’re relating to when we, ourselves, are listening to story. Help your listener understand yours by pointing out the journey markers.

You will start to notice we often have similar journey markers. Patterns of events to which we, as characters in our lives, respond to in similar ways. Grief events. Celebration events. Anger events. When you show the details of yours in your story, you pull the listener into the universal experience of the journeys we all are taking.

Said in short, when you make me feel, you make me remember. What makes me remember are the points about which we relate. The points about which we relate are nestled in the patterns of our lives. So make me feel by telling me what matters. Point to the patterns we share and I’ll pull up a chair for your next story and your next.

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