Framing the Story

The other day I was expressing regret to a friend. After listening patiently and compassionately for as long as she could stand it, she finally said, "Look, the Past is Prologue. What are you going to do now?"

One of the areas improvisers explore in order to create good stories, is structure. (See the Story Spine side-barred here.) And one of the awarenesses we seek to develop is recognizing where we are in the story (e.g. beginning, middle, end). Different offers are suitable for different stages of a story. For example, in the middle of the story, you might want to add obstacles and conflict; if the story is wrapping up, adding new elements and conflict could potentially stall it.

So, two things:

1. Being aware of where you are in the story can guide your next steps. In a meeting, is it time to set context, brainstorm possible solutions, evaluate ideas, commit to solutions? No matter how brilliant or "right", an offer will fall flat if it does not come at a time that serves the scene.

2. We can choose how to "frame" the story. Where does this story begin? Where does it end? The same events can illustrate wildly different lessons depending on those choices. When we tell stories, we need to choose our start and end points wisely. As we live our lives, we can similarly "frame" where we are in our stories, for ourselves.

There's a poster at my gym that says, "If you never stop playing, you can never lose." In other words, if failure comes in the middle of the story, it's not failure: just an obstacle on the path to something else.

Paula Deen, the mega-successful, burgers-on-deep-fried-donuts cook and TV personality STARTED her business in her late forties after raising a family. She saw her children leaving the nest as the beginning, not the end to a story.

And my friend, with her encouragement to see my past as prologue, allowed me to frame my story starting NOW.

Ask yourself:

- What stories are you currently living?

- Where do you see yourself in the story? Is there another beginning-middle-end frame that might be more helpful?

- In the stories you tell, do your start and end places serve your desired point?

- What parts of stories are you most comfortable in? Uncomfortable?

Let us know what you discover!