An Incident is not a story. Something happens and you talk about it, that’s an anecdote. If you simply restate it, it might be a plot or a news report, but it’s not a story. It’s a bit like saying a skeleton is a person when in reality there is no life in the skeleton without muscle, flesh, and blood.
An incident or event is a launch pad for a story; it’s actually a launch pad for many stories, and your intentions, feelings, and characters will determine just which story will emerge. Individuals infuse meaning, events do not determine story.
Let me give you an example:
A 20 year old goes to a party, decides not to drink, drives home, then he gets into an accident and calls his dad. That’s the event, but it can inspire many stories. Here are a few.
Story #1 – A 20 year old goes to a party and decides not to drink. There’s a lot of peer pressure and he’s called a slew of names but laughs them off. He’s offered a couple mixed drinks, but refuses them. He’s tempted and almost gives in, but doesn’t. He leaves the party a little early and heads home. When he’s half way home he hits a patch of black ice, loses control of the car, and hits a tree. He calls his dad and gets the car towed to their mechanic. Now he keeps a picture of the dented front end of the car in his wallet. It reminds him that sometimes doing the right thing has its own rewards.
Story #2 – A 20 year old goes to a party and decides not to drink. He was hoping to meet up with some friends but they never show. The party just seems to drag on and on so he leaves a little early. The weather is nasty and he just wants to get home and crawl into bed. When he’s about half way home he spots a patch of black ice up a head. His first thought is to swerve around it, but instead he hits the breaks, and regrets his action the second his foot depresses the pedal as the car begins to spin totally out of control. Suddenly things seem to slow down and move in slow motion. He wants to do something, but all he can do is watch the scenery through his window until the front end of his car collides with an oak tree. He sits still for a minute, until he realizes he’s holding his breath. He takes a deep inhalation and begins to shake. It takes him a few minutes before he reaches into his pocket and takes out his cell. Then it takes him a few more minutes before he calls his dad. He sat staring straight ahead; it was as if time just stopped until he heard a wrapping on the window. He turned towards the noise and heard his dad’s voice which seemed to reset the clock. Time began again.
Story #3 – A 20 year old goes to a party and decides not to drink. The weather is nasty so he decides to head home early. When he’s half way home he hits a patch of black ice and spins out of control and collides with a tree. He sits in the car for a few minutes before he pulls out his cell to call his dad. His dad had always been there for him as a kid, but things changed when he started high school. He didn’t have much time for his dad and his dad didn’t seem to have much time for him. College took even more time, but as he sat staring at the trunk of an old oak tree, he couldn’t think of calling anybody but his dad. His voice quivered a little when he said hello and his dad knew something happened right away, but he waited and just listened. He closes his cell phone and suddenly his dad appears. He helps his son get out of the car and they go through some logistics. It isn’t until their home that he realizes that his dad never asked about the party. He just trusted him.
That’s three very different stories. One is about courage, the second is about trauma, and third is character driven about relationships. All three stories came from the same event are unique. Infusing story into an event can heal, brand, or inspire. Work with a story coach to plant and harvest your stories.