April 17, 2024

The Magical Story Triangle

Last week, I wrote about how AI can't facilitate a room. I got some pushback, but I stand by it. The other thing I believe AI will never be able to do is tell an authentic story that brings people together.

Yes, AI can write a story. It can even generate images, create films, and act.

But it can't experience something, and then share that experience in a way that connects with someone or a group of people on a deeper level.

The challenge is that most of us aren't great at telling stories either.

We've left that to "creative" people — those who are outgoing, gregarious, or entertaining. But often, when someone isn't good at stories, it means they're just sharing the facts. And people don't remember facts alone.

There's a lot that goes into writing and sharing a good story. But one way you can make your stories better is with Ei's “Magical Story Triangle.”

This framework is our tongue-in-cheek way of demystifying the idea that good stories are “magic.” The three elements work together to create narratives that are more interesting, more emotionally impactful, and therefore more memorable.

  1. Details: These are the numbers, dates, and imagery that conjure the five senses. Details bring a story to life, making it more vivid and relatable for the audience.
  2. Drama: Moments of suspense, challenge, and surprise. There's a journey or even just a moment that leaves people curious about what will happen next. Drama engages the audience emotionally, keeping them invested in the story.
  3. Meaning: This is the a universal human element — a deeper lesson or an "aha" moment. Sometimes you show it clearly, and other times you let the audience find it on their own. This gives the story purpose and resonance beyond the mere facts.

In Action

Before the story triangle, you might share about a young woman who went to a ball, met a man, lost a slipper, and then reunited with that man when he went searching for her.

But with the Magical Story Triangle, you get so much more: an orphan with a horrible stepmother and two spoiled stepsisters, the pains of being left behind, a chance to be celebrated and adorned, a moment of connection, a search, and reuniting. You get Cinderella!

But it's not just for fairytales.

Imagine you're a new employee at a company. Your onboarding was rocky, so you decided to suggest some changes to the onboarding process. You could simply state the facts: the process was lengthy and technical, someone helped you navigate it, and you sketched a few ideas to make it better.

Or, you could use Ei's Story Triangle:

You share how the process felt — hours spent on confusing paperwork and learning complex systems with little support. But then a colleague was kind enough to step in and show you the ropes. They became a pseudo-mentor for the following weeks, checking in and even finding time to meet in-person when they passed through your city. You ramped up faster and gained confidence in the role quickly.

It helped you so much that you developed a light-touch onboarding process that matched new hires with seasoned leaders for the first 60-days at the company. Now, new hires are starting to feel greater connection to their colleagues, and are finding their groove faster than ever.

Could AI write that story? Probably.

But it can't live that story and then express it authentically — sharing the details, challenges, and universal lessons that connect to specific people. That's for you to do.

It takes practice. A lot of practice. So you have to look for the right opportunities to shift from just sharing information and ideas to starting with stories. The more you practice conveying moments of challenge, success, and growth — the more you do what only you can do: connect with others and inspire them to move forward together.

What story are you trying to tell next?

Are you about to meet with your manager for quarterly reviews? Are you about to connect with a potential client? Are you trying to lead your team through a new initiative?

The power of storytelling lies in its ability to bridge the gap between the teller and the listener, to create a shared experience that goes beyond the transmission of information. Add in details, drama, meaning, and you’ll connect with your audience in a way that's different and memorable — in a way that is human.

PS: Learn more about our Storytelling workshops here.

Image by Paul Blow for The New York Times

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