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StoryMusings #1 - Strong Beginning, Strong Ending

Hi, I’m Shannon, Founder & Creative Director of StoryMuse. Thanks so much for subscribing to the free sampler of my curriculum. I hope you enjoy this series...

A storyteller should know her final line before she gets there. I liken this to the gymnasts when they tumble across the floor or land from an apparatus. You know what I’m talking about, don't you? It’s so satisfying for us, and for them, when they stick the landing and throw their hands up in the air.

A strong ending is like that. No fumbling, no second guessing about whether or not you’re really done.

In summer 2016, I had the good fortune to work with Georgia State’s Young African Leaders Initiative. All 25 young people, aged 25-35, were there to develop their skills in their current leadership positions in NGOs and governmental positions across Africa.

Part of the curriculum involved having the students create a “lightning talk”, where they pitched work they were doing back in their own countries, their “big ideas”, and what they would do with a large donation.

Titi, from Nigeria, was selected for the excellence of her lightning talk to represent the GSU site when all went to D.C. at the end of the summer. She had a powerful pitch about Nigerian libraries and the need for book and cash donations to transform the work.

While Titi was indeed a great storyteller, she was understandably, and quite visibly, nervous when I coached her on the talk. She was also very tied to the PowerPoint presentation she’d created.

The first thing I told Titi when I began to offer feedback was that she needed to start off with a strong beginning, lots of energy, almost as if her presentation had actually begun in the other room and was already in process, energetically speaking. Actors do this all the time. The image I like to offer is Sister Maria at the beginning of “The Sound of Music”.


As the film begins, Sister Maria walks broadly around the mountaintop, sweeps her arms high, and begins belting out her song as we drop into the middle of her story. That’s how a storyteller should begin as well. By knowing exactly what her first line is.

We went on to find an equally powerful last line for her presentation. One that she could stick the landing on.

In neither the beginning nor the ending, am I saying that one should have an inappropriate amount of energy, being bubbly or buoyant, if the story is serious and somber. But that feeling of sticking your landing is still crucial no matter what. You’ll know it when you feel it.

Titi certainly did.



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