5 Elements of an Inspirational Story
"Akshat, how can I inspire my audience?" is a question I get asked from so many people whom I coach and mentor. “Share a challenging experience and derive a message out of it”, is my usual reply.
Most people think that to inspire an audience, one either needs climb mount Everest or become a billionaire. The truth is whether you are a student, a professional, an entrepreneur or just nobody, you can still inspire an audience if you know the right way.
To understanding how to inspire, we first need to understand when do we really feel inspired. Most inspirational stories follow one basic approach. Someone goes from Victim to Victor. People love to see the underdogs win. Take up any inspirational story, most of them follow the Victim to Victor approach, because this is what we relate to. We all are victims of something and we all have problems that we desperately want to solve.
Can you think of a story from your life where you went from Victim to Victor? Take a minute and think of it. The idea is to tell that story in a way that it sounds interesting.
Any inspirational story has FIVE most basic, must have elements:
1. Main character – (You in the case of a personal story)
2. A Problem/Challenge
To understand the 5 elements, I would take an example of a story all of us have come to love - ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’, a movie that was released in 2006. If you haven’t watched it yet, do watch it.
Let’s see how the story inculcates the 5 elements:
1. Main Character - Chris Gardner, a man living with his 5-year-old son.
2. Problem/Challenge – He loses his business and is struggling financially to make the ends meet.
3. Build-up – This is the most important part of the story because it shows the impact of the problem/challenge in the character's life. This is where emotions and conflicts arise. This is where the audience starts connecting with the main character. Our human ability to empathize is the driving force here.
In ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’, the main character is evicted from their apartment. He and his young son find themselves alone with no place to go. Even though Chris eventually lands a job as an intern at a prestigious brokerage firm, the position pays no money. The pair must live in shelters and endure many hardships. Even his marriage falls apart.
4. Action – This is the beginning of the end, and this is where the journey from Victim to Victor begins. What does the character do to change these difficult circumstances? Most often the result doesn’t even matter. The sheer effort and the sacrifices that the character makes to turn the table, the troubles he/she takes to make a difference, and the action that follows is what really inspires people. Inspiration is always more about the action, and less about the result.
In the movie, Chris doesn’t give up! He constantly shows up at hospitals to sell out his machine. He keeps meeting people to find business/job opportunities, and even when he goes to prison for a night, he somehow reaches for a scheduled interview.
5. Conclusion – This is the part where the Victim finally becomes a Victor and all his/her struggle finds meaning. The result is also very important to tell. Often people talk about what they did, but forget to talk about how the actions impacted their life. The movie ends with Chris finding the job, and this moment is called ‘Happiness’.
Now back to the question! Can you think of a story from your life where you went from Victim to Victor?
Like I said, you don’t have to climb mount Everest or become a Billionaire. Understand how your story is relevant to the audience listening to you. Think of those everyday challenges and those common-man problems. Did you just quit smoking, or did you lose your job, but eventually found another? Talk about the journey!
In your journey, the character is YOU and your life is full of stories. All you need to do is relax, reflect and recall! Remember to go from Victim to Victor and inspiration will take care of itself!
Who are you inspiring today?