Want to Tell Better Stories? Think Like a Stripper.

Nov 2014

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing slowly … very slowly.”
– Gypsy Rose Lee


Photo Credit: brh_images via Compfight cc

Think about some of the great storytellers you’ve come across in your journey on this fair planet. The uncle who could spin tall tales all night long, or the college buddy who could captivate with stories of his fraternity pranks. Or think of the more famous storytellers you’ve enjoyed over the years, like Mark Twain, Quentin Tarantino, or my personal favorite, P.G. Wodehouse.

What did all those folks have in common? They didn’t just tell a story. They let the story unfold, revealing one delicious detail at a time.

Even if you’ve never been to a strip club (those who have know who you are), you’ll probably understand that a striptease is not about seeing attractive women (or men) without their clothes on. If it were, they’d just walk out on stage butt-naked.

No, a good striptease starts with a (more or less) clothed body and proceeds as a game that weaves a tantalizing triangle of enticement, fulfillment, and surprise. Just like a good story.

As storytellers, we know what the end result of our story is going to be … and we miss out on tremendous opportunities to engage, entice, and fascinate if we let it out too early.

We need to slow down. We need to think carefully about the different pieces that create the end result, and then we need to let them drip, drip, drip into the audience’s imagination. 

Take a look at these two examples and tell me which one has more impact:

Example 1:
We found out we didn’t get the project.

Example 2:
We’d waited all week to hear back from our contact at Goliath Corp., but no word had come. We figured no news was good news. 

Finally Friday afternoon rolled around. I guess it was about 5:30 — everyone had headed home to enjoy the weekend, and I was just about to pack up when the phone rang. 

As I stared at the blinking console, I remembered something a mentor once told me: “Only two kinds of calls come in on a Friday afternoon: really good news and really bad news.” Should I let it roll to voicemail? … The thought occurred to me … but did I really want to risk another round of phone tag? 

Finally I lifted the receiver, which felt like a 50-pound dumbbell in my hand. 

“Grant Carson here.” Friendly, but not too eager. 

And then I heard it. The Pause. 

You know what The Pause is, right? That all too familiar hesitation of someone who was really, really hoping to get your voicemail. 

“Heyyy, Grant, it’s Alex from Goliath here. Got a minute?” 

See the difference? Example #1 isn’t a story; it’s a fact. “We found out we didn’t get the project.” Aaaaand you’re naked.

Example #2 takes the aerial-view shot and zooms it all the way down to one guy sitting at his desk with a ringing phone next to him. Is it easier to make an emotional connection with this approach? You bet yer boots it is.

So the next time you sit down to write a story, resist the urge to just get to the ending. Slow down. Break bigger moments down into smaller moments. Add more details to paint the picture. Give it rhythm, tempo, and mood … and watch your audience (virtually) start pulling out those dollar bills.

OK, your turn: What’s your favorite approach for creating a compelling story? Share it with us in the Comments — we’d love to hear from you!

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About the Author

Rachel Parker, Founder & CEO of Resonance Content MarketingA self-described geek who can recite entire episodes of South Park by heart, Rachel Parker has had a passion for content ever since she was old enough to hold a crayon (purple, please).

As Founder and CEO of Resonance, Rachel helps businesses publish content that connects with their audience … and converts those followers into customers. She’s also the host of the Content Marketing Podcast and a sought-after speaker, having presented to many major business and marketing organizations. Contact Rachel about speaking to your group or business.

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  1. Gina Balarin says:

    Hi Rachel

    Did I inspire you? Or do great minds just think alike? Not sure if you were part of the #cmworld twitter chat today – but clearly the striptease theory of content marketing is making its debut. I kicked it off back in March this year – but looks like we’re bringing it to life together! You might like to check this out… http://www.cyance.com/blog/bid/338077/The-Content-Marketing-Striptease#axzz3K6roWgWS

    • Rachel Parker says:

      Hi Gina,
      I haven’t participated in the #CMWorld chats in ages — glad to hear it’s still going strong! This post was actually inspired by a class I took years ago called “Striptease Writing,” and I’ve always found it to be a good analogy. Love your post — great minds do indeed think alike! Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Lukasz Marcyniuk says:

    Hi Rachel
    Thx for sharing this with the rest of us. I am 100% convinced that what you write is the best way to keep a reader/listener consuming your message.
    I myself are a very analytic thinking person.
    To solve the Problem X apply solution Y and if that is not working switch to solution Z.
    I struggle with the point how do I make a customer the hero of my story.
    For example:
    Customer A needs a Software solution for the Problem he has (expanding Market, new requirements, errors with current solution, … ). He comes to me and pays me to solve his problem for him. I work out the solution and most of the time a few extra points and give him the finished Product. Customer A takes the finished solution adds it into his product line and earns Millions or is happy or makes his own consumers happy.
    Could you help me give any advice how to change/reorder a story like this so that the customer will be the hero?

    • Rachel Parker says:

      Hi Lukasz,

      Thanks for commenting. The key to making your customer the hero is by telling the entire story from his perspective. Here are a few questions to consider as you refine it:

      • How did the client arrive at the decision to hire an outside resource … and what made him choose you?
      • I’m guessing this client didn’t simply drop his problem into your lap and check out until you were done. How did he communicate his needs and guide you through the process of solving his problem? What was most important to him, and why?
      • How did he ensure success once the product was finished? How did he position it? How did it meet his customers needs and make them happier? How did the new product help his company compete more effectively?

      Hope this helps!

      • Lukasz Marcyniuk says:

        I spent the last two days trying to answer the questions so that the client would be the hero but somehow its not working out 🙁
        I feel like I do not see the forest because of all the trees around me 🙂
        Have you any further suggestions?

        How did the client arrive at the decision to hire an outside resource … and what made him choose you?
        -) Decision to get help from outside: The project was already 6 Months behind the schedule and with the workload of other projects the client would not be able to work in the lost time.
        -) Choose me: Has searched for 6 Months before he found me – I was the only one who offered knowledge and experience in the technology he needed and was able start working on this project from first day on.

        I’m guessing this client didn’t simply drop his problem into your lap and check out until you were done. How did he communicate his needs and guide you through the process of solving his problem? What was most important to him, and why?
        He gave me the requirements and attributes of the runtime environment (specs) and ask for solutions. I have worked out two different ways, from which he choose on.
        We meet once a week, during the whole project. During this meetings I presented the progress, the timetable and also the next steps needed to be done.

        How did he ensure success once the product was finished? How did he position it? How did it meet his customers needs and make them happier? How did the new product help his company compete more effectively?
        Because it was a software solution I have also written an automated test environment – the test as well as the results were so written that you could easy understand and compare them. This way the client just compared the test results with the given project specification and was happy that it was working even better then the requested specification.
        The client took the finished project and is selling now the solution with his new product line.
        Because of the new software as well as adapted new hardware he was able to accelerate his products from a millisecond cycle to a nanosecond cycle. Currently he is the only one in the whole world who is offering such performance. And yes, because of this performance boost, his customers are willing to pay more and to change from the old to the new products.

        TIA for your time!

        • Rachel Parker says:

          Hi Lukasz,

          You definitely have a good start; sometimes it takes time for a story to come together. Just focus on telling it from the customer’s point of view, and feel free to “let it sit” for a few days in between editing sessions.

          Also, if you have a trusted client (other than the one in the story) who would agree to review it for you, his or her feedback could be very valuable.

          Hope this helps!

  3. Lukasz Marcyniuk says:

    I just found from my point of view a perfect example to the this topic.
    The story is about the moon landing but also about newest Nvidia technology.
    First of all they are building up the story and the whole speculations.
    And than bang in the middle of the clip the big enlightenment.

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