🧑‍🏫 Advanced: The 5 secret shapes of the world's most powerful stories

Ft. Kurt Vonnegut

In 1946, Kurt Vonnegut submitted his Masters thesis on the ‘shapes of stories’ to the University of Chicago. It was rejected…

78 years later, those shapes are considered groundbreaking contributions to storytelling theory. If you want your stories to captivate your audience, relying on one story structure (which is what most speakers do), isn’t enough.

Make your stories unpredictable…

by harnessing multiple story arcs.

There are 8 story shapes in total.

Only 5 of them are relevant for Founders and Thought Leaders.

  1. Man in Hole 🕳️

  2. Boy Meets Girl ❤️‍🔥

  3. Cinderella 👠

  4. From Bad to Worse 🤕 

  5. Creation 🌎

Before I go into these in more detail, watch this video of the man himself. It will be the most useful 4 minutes and 2 seconds of your day… 🍿.

Genius isn’t it?!

Now let’s look at how you can translate those story arcs (and the two he didn’t mention) into the kinds of stories you need to be sharing in your speaking engagements.

Kurt Vonnegut’s story shapes with a thought leadership lens

  1. 🕳️ Man in Hole → Your Origin Story 💡
    Origin stories give our audience the answer to a very important question: Why did you start doing what you do?

    Narrative: Going about your daily life —> Discovery of a problem that needs solving —> Embark on a journey to solve it.

  2. ❤️‍🔥 Boy Meets Girl → Customer Story 🫶
    Customer stories are a way of validating the impact you are able to deliver.

    Narrative: Customer going about their life —> Get stuck —> Discover you —> Achieve wonderful things together.

  3. 👠 Cinderella → Company Story 🎢

    Company stories are an opportunity to share the journey and help create an emotional connection with your audience.

    Narrative: Painful problem needs to be solved —> Step by step you create solutions —> Suddenly you achieve product market fit, think you’re on the path to greatness, until… —> Get hit by an unexpected curveball —> Slowly but surely build back stronger.

  4. 🤕 From Bad to Worse → Problem Story 🫣
    One of the most effective ways to build urgency.

    Narrative: X is a big problem —> We’re struggling to solve it —> This is what’s going to happen if we can’t find a way to solve it.

    Top tip: Exceptionally powerful when put before a Cinderella or Creation story!

  5. 🌎 Creation Story → Vision Story 🔮
    Every thought leader needs a vision. It should answer two questions: Where are we going? And How do we get there?

    Narrative: This is where we are right now —> This is what we’re going to do about it —> When we do this, we’ll end up here [Repeat until you reach your promised land.

A little rushed today team - but out is better than perfect! I hope you found it useful.

Feedback welcome!


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