The Power of Telling Stories

“He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.” Did you recognize the last line of Harper Lee’s classic story, “To Kill a Mockingbird?” To speak about story telling, what better way to lead than with the number one choice in the Great American Read, and the book found at the top of Novels Everyone Should Read from Information is Beautiful? This one sentence summary from the Famous Film Plots Generator, describes the story well: Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his children against prejudice. Told from the point-of-view of young Scout, the story begins like this: “When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.”

Stories Are Powerful

Stories provide meaning. Stories entertain, engage, teach, and connect us with others. Good stories capture and hold our attention, and make us care.

The Elements of Powerful Story Telling

All stories need the following parts.

PURPOSE – why the story matters. What is the message? A story has a meaningful theme or main idea.

PEOPLE – who the main characters are. What makes you care about them? Characters seem real when they make mistakes, struggle, and overcome adversity.

PLOT – what happens on the journey. What events take place? Create scenes that grab attention, explore themes, and advance movement.

PERIL – what could be lost or gained. What struggles are faced? Without conflict, there is no story. Action and adventure add tension.

Also important to include in a story are:

PLACE – where the story takes place. What is the setting of the story? The time period and setting can convey tone.

PASSION – the emotion that fuels purpose. What do the main characters want? Characters are motivated by a desire.

PERSONAL – what it means for the reader. How does the story help them? CARE – use a conversational tone, add value for them, make it relatable by connecting with emotions.

PICTURES – what it looks like. How do descriptions bring the story to life? Touch on the senses to paint a vivid picture with words.

Download the Storytelling Venn Diagram pdf

In Ten Ways to Use Storytelling to Improve Your Ability To Connect and Communicate, Sarah Peck says, “A story is what you take with you.” Think of a story that you have loved, and what you took away from it. She also says that we tell stories (and I would also add read, listen, and watch stories) to connect, dream, and imagine. Sometimes we want to go on a journey to a place we have never been, or to see how others experience the world. We may want to learn about something we never thought about before, or maybe just escape for a little while. Whatever the reason, when a story captures our attention, it is a powerful way to communicate.

More Information

Learn more about storytelling at Emotional Brand Storytelling and the Seven Beats of Brand Storytelling. See also the Brand and Purpose ToolkitReading Comprehension Cubes at Phonics Pow, and the Storytelling Pinterest Board. Tell Your Story is part of the Discover U series.


I seek to create order from the chaos of complex information. Join me at the Daily PlanIt to gain insights, inspiration, and information to increase skills for a better life. I unlock the power of teaching reading with phonics in the pursuit of literacy at In my spare time I explore books and movies, often choosing titles available on both screen and page.

Posted in Ideas That Work, information management

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