Storytelling: Transformation

Storytelling is the essence of communication. The elements of storytelling are like letters of the alphabet. When you know how to use them, you can tell your best story.

Element 16: Transformation

Stories derive their energy from transformation — someone or something has to change.

Case study: Whistling Dog Cellars dsc00670

What it is:

Whistling Dog Cellars is a small vineyard and winery in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA that produces exquisite Pinot Noir. Owners Tom and Celeste Symonette worked, respectively, in business and pharmaceuticals in Silicon Valley. They had money and success but chose to leave it behind to gamble on their winemaking dream.

Why it matters:

Whistling Dog’s story is irresistible because it is about people transforming their lives. Tom Symonette initially wanted to work in forestry, but lack of opportunity sent him back to school to earn an MBA. He then spent years working 100-hour weeks in corporate finance roles. But, as he puts it, in that world “the most tangible thing you do is print out a spreadsheet.” So he and his wife decided to leave their gilded Bay Area life and, along with their young daughter, risk everything on an old vineyard.

Big, bold transformations like that are the engines that drive great stories. If your story (ad campaign, romance, career development, etc) is sputtering along take a hard look at it and ask yourself: Where is the transformation? If nothing changes, nothing happens. This is boring in life and fatal to stories.

In their own words:

“At Whistling Dog Cellars we don’t just own the winery and vineyard, we actually do the work.  One of us is the primary worker in every step of our vineyard and winery activities; we have no other employees.  Growing and making world-class Pinot is not just our passion, it is our livelihood, it is the only thing we do.  We don’t just stake our reputation on it; we stake our family’s welfare on it.” Read More


Practice: “In plot-driven stories, the changes are typically external, with the change occurring in the world the characters inhabit. There’s a problem that’s affecting others (it can be anywhere between one person or all people), and that problem must change or else. The novel is about watching how a situation is resolved and the consequences of resolving it.” Janice Hardy via Publishing Crawl

Remember: “Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay. ~Simone de Beauvoir


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