What All Storytellers Can Learn From George Lucas

Today I want to look at what speakers and storytellers  can learn from filmmaker George Lucas of Star Wars fame.

Now Lucas is a millionaire hundreds of times over and this is largely due to his success with the Star Wars Franchise.

Now the stories within the Star Wars franchise aren’t all that great. But today I want to talk about the one thing that made the franchise extremely successful and something we can learn when we tell our own stories.

So what made Star Wars a hit.  It started in the middle. 

Now before I go on, let’s look at a basic story arc. 

Jason Reid's Story Arc Structure

The challenge is, sometimes if you have a long or complicated story, the setup can be a little long and boring, so that’s why many storytellers will start in the middle where the action is, and eventually go back in time either all at once or little by little and clue you in as to what set up all this action.

So here’s what Lucas did, He started with Episode IV. Which seems crazy. Who wants to come into a movie not having seen the first third? Well it turns everyone did. As a result, we started with a space battle and not two hours of talk about trade embargos. pod races or microscopic parasites that control the universe. 

By starting in the middle where the real action was he grabbed people’s attention. And luckily he kept it for the second move that’s often regarded as the best one of the series. The Empire Strikes Back. This is the MIDDLE episode of the MIDDLE series. 

When it comes to longer stories middle’s are where the action is, middle’s grab people. If you’re telling a longer story don’t forget to savour that middle, and where you can START WITH IT. 

For more storytelling tips, go to my website and pick up my professional storytellers tool. Also subscribe to my channel. 

Storytelling and the Brain – Video

Stories can help you sell your idea more effectively because they engage your listener’s emotions and activate the sensory centers of the brain.

Why are stories a great way to sell products, services or even ideas?  Well partially it’s because of storytelling’s impact on the brain.

Storytelling is extremely old. In fact it even predates language itself. Yes, before we could even speak – we were telling stories.

We actually understand and remember stories much better than any other form of communication. That’s why we need to use stories if we want to influence others.

Stories are better than PowerPoint

Powerpoint won’t actually kill your audience, but relying on it too much can kill your chances.  To keep people’s attention you need to engage more parts of their brain.

Let’s imagine you’re doing a sales presentation and you’re using facts and graphs and charts. You’ve engaged the logic centers of their brain, and while it’s good you’re engaging something, it’s often not enough to get their attention.

How to gain real attention during your presentation

Now instead, let’s imagine you’re telling them a story.  A story about a real live human being with thoughts, and dreams, and emotions.  

Maybe during the course of the story you talk about how things looked, or sounded, or even smelled! Well now you’ve hit the jackpot. The entire brain is lit up. Why? Because when we hear a great story, our brains experience it as if it were real life. It’s really a virtual reality – meaning all those brain centers for sight, sound, touch and smell suddenly get activated.

The more parts of the brain you activate, the more people will pay attention – and the more chance YOU have to make your sale.

But there’s one more thing you need to know. Remember I talked about human beings and emotions being important to your story? They are. People relate to the struggles of others, and buying ANYTHING, even if it’s an idea, is very much an emotional decision.  That’s why stories should act as the emotional component of your sales presentation.

So to sum up, by using stories to activate people’s senses, you get their attention. Then, you stimulate their emotions, as well as their logical minds, so that they will take action.


There’s no better way to learn than stories. Why not book Jason to engage your audience with stories that are entertaining, powerful and insightful learning tools? Check out Jason’s programs to find out how your audience can become better at influence, sales, leadership or general communication.

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Create Tension for Better Stories

The lifeblood of any great story is tension.

If you recounted a time where you woke up and everything was lovely, every person got along, and no problems presented themselves, it wouldn’t really be much of a story.

Of course the story doesn’t have to be negative to be effective. For instance,  you could tell a story about winning the lottery, but you’d still need to have some tension to make it work – even if that tension is internal. Let’s look at this example:


“As I read the winning number in the newspaper I realized I’d won the 2 million dollars that would pay for my mother’s open heart surgery. But the joy in my heart was tempered by a lingering thought. My divorce papers hadn’t been finalized. Was there any way I could keep my abusive husband from finding out about the win?”

 
That’s a good news story, but there’s a heck of a lot of tension set up there. There is a huge obstacle that still needs to be resolved.  If you heard a speaker start that story, wouldn’t you want to hear the end?

WHAT IS TENSION IN A STORY AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

The storyteller who understood tension the best was filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. He explained that tension is not a bomb exploding on a bus. Tension is the audience knowing the bomb is on the bus and not knowing exactly what will happen.

When you create a lot of tension in your story, your audience yearns for a release. Much like sex, the more you can prolong and build that tension, the greater and more satisfying the release will likely be.

Some speakers use tension as a way to keep the audience’s attention throughout their presentation. They begin their talk by setting up a story with a lot of tension and stop before the climax . This is called a cliffhanger. The speaker then leaves the story unresolved while they talk about something else. They will often refer back to the tense story throughout the talk with a promise to finish it. Then, at the end of the talk, they provide the climax which – if done well – leaves the audience satisfied and stimulated.

WHY YOUR STORY NEEDS A SATISFYING FINISH

Here’s the thing you need to keep in mind when building stories with a high amount of tension: You need the ending to be satisfying.


The story’s ending has to be dramatic or novel enough to have made the tension worthwhile It also means you aren’t holding back a key piece of information that factors into the resolution of the story.

If, in the lottery story, the heroine loses the two million dollars to her abusive husband, only to be given two million dollars from a rich aunt the audience never knew she had – you can be sure your listeners will feel cheated. They’ll also feel cheated if the mother ends up not needing the operation at all.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

One last thing to keep in mind… If the purpose of your talk is something more than simply entertainment – if you’re looking to inspire, or make a point, or connect to a theme – then that story has to serve a purpose. There has to be an obvious point to the story that connects it directly with the content in your talk.  If you can’t do that, maybe you should leave that story for your next novel or screenplay.