December 1, 2009

Scripting Your Story Using The Nine Steps of Story Structure

Before you start telling a story and using it in your presentations, it is valuable to write the script out according to the Nine Steps of Story Structure.  Here is an example of a story scripted with the Nine Steps.

Step 1 – Set The Scene:

A good deal of my work involves giving storytelling workshops for large corporations. They’re usually one-day workshops at some remote location like a conference resort or a fancy hotel.  When you combine the natural stress that accompanies airports, shuttle busses and hotels with the physical work of being on your feet for 8 hours, it’s pretty exhausting.

A year ago, after one of these workshops, I went back to my room and laid down on the bed. I woke up four hours later at 9 pm in the same clothes I’d worn for the workshop.  It was dark outside and for a moment, I didn’t know where I was. It was at that point that I realized I had to make a change. Either I had to stop doing one-day workshops, which I love, or I had to get in better shape and develop more stamina.

Step 2 – Introduce the Characters

(There are no other characters in this story.  In the Nine Steps of Story Structure, introduce the characters when they naturally appear in the story. This step is not necessarily Step 2.)

Step 3 – Begin the Journey

In March 2009, I made the decision to get back into running. I’d taken up running many times in my life, but never very seriously. At 59, I knew it was going to be like starting from scratch. And it was.

I found a running path near my house along an abandoned railroad track: the Rock Island Trail. It was 1.9 miles to the end, 3.8 miles round trip.

On my first run, I had to stop and walk after about ¼ mile. It was pretty bad. I walked and jogged for maybe a mile total. But it was a start. After a couple of weeks I was really getting into it. I could run farther and faster and longer. I bought some serious running shoes, subscribed to Runner’s World magazine and, because I’m deadline oriented, I decided to sign up to run some races.

Over the years, I’ve met and coached at least 70 people who have run marathons. After listening to their marathon stories of great pain and amazing endurance, I just couldn’t fathom running 26.2 miles for 7 hours and hurting myself. So I set a goal to run two half-marathons in 2009.

Step 4 – Encounter the Obstacle

Now that I had a true stretch goal, I knew I had to be more serious and knowledgeable about my workouts. For the first six weeks I kept running on the old railroad bed because it was flat. Right next to the railroad bed was a paved walking, biking and running path that the city had put in. But it wasn’t flat; it had a couple of hills. I didn’t want to run on the hills, but in the running magazine articles I was reading, the authors kept talking about how essential hill training was. No pain no gain right?

So the next time out, I decided to take the road less traveled, at least by me, and run on the path with the hills. And I hated it. It was painful enough getting back into running at 59, but the hills were killers. Within seconds of running up the first hill, my calves were burning and my lungs wanted to explode.

I kept saying to myself, “I hate this. I hate these hills,” but I ran them day after day; and when I was finished running for the day, I felt great. Mixed in with the soreness and exhaustion, there was a euphoria that I couldn’t explain. Runners understand. And I couldn’t wait to run again.

Step 5 – Overcome the Obstacle

A few weeks later I added an extra mile to my run. I was now running 4.8 miles on a regular basis, with hills, and sometimes I could even sprint a little at the end. I was in the best shape of my life. It was fun – except for those darn hills. I cursed them every time I ran them. And that bothered me.

One day, as I was lacing up my running shoes, I made the decision to practice what I preach. I teach that when you change your thinking – you change your life. So I decided to change my thinking about the hills. Instead of cursing them, I decided to thank them. As I started to climb the first hill and my calves started to burn I said aloud, “Thank you hill for making me stronger. Thank you for strong calves and powerful lungs. Thank you hill. Thank you hill.”

The hills were still hard. But now they were my friends and allies. I started looked forward to the hills.

Step 6 – Resolve the Story

About two months after I had started running, I was doing a one-day storytelling in business workshop for a client. After the workshop, I got back to my room, changed into my workout clothes and went down to the hotel gym. I was about 20 minutes into my workout on the treadmill when it occurred to me that I wasn’t upstairs passed out on the bed. I still had energy. My plan to get in better shape was working and paying off dividends.

I ran my first half-marathon in Portland, Oregon on July 4th. It was extremely painful, but I finished in 2 hours 48 minutes…at sea level on a flat course.

I ran my second half-marathon in Colorado Springs in September 7th in 2 hours 46 minutes, at 6000 feet in elevation. There were a number of small hills and it wasn’t nearly as hard or painful as the race in Portland. Now, when I’m on the road, I run a few miles after my keynote or workshop. I can honestly say that at 59 years of age, I’m in the best shape of my life.

Step 7 – Make the Point

Change isn’t easy. But what I learned from my experience with running is this: Thank the Hills. Rather than cursing the obstacles and the pain, thank the hills.

Step 8 – Ask the Question

How about you? Are you trying to make a change in your life but you look out in front of you and you see that hill, that pain, that challenge, that uphill climb? What is the hill for you?  Who is the hill for you? It is much easier to make changes and accomplish things in your life if you stop cursing the hills, and thank them instead.

Step 9 – Restate the Point

My challenge for you is: Thank the hills. Thank the hills in your life for making you strong. Change your thinking and you’ll change your experience. Thank the hills!


To watch a video of another of my stories, with the Nine Steps of Story Structure outlined for you, go to my website:, click on Media Gallery, then click play on the first video entitled: The Story Theater Method in Action.  Here is a direct link:

Doug Stevenson, president of Story Theater International, is a storytelling in business expert. He is the creator of The Story Theater Method and the author of the book, Doug Stevenson’s Story Theater Method.

His speaking, training and executive coaching clients include Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Lockheed Martin, Oracle, Bristol Myers Squibb, Amgen, Volkswagen, Century 21, The Department of Defense, The National Education Association and many more.

His 10 CD – How to Write and Deliver a Dynamite Speech audio learning system is a workshop in a box. It contains an 80-page follow along workbook. Learn more at:

Doug can be reached at 1-800-573-6196 or 1-719-573-6195. Learn more about the Story Theater Method, purchase the book or Story Theater audio six pack, and sign-up for the free Story Theater newsletter at:

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