All good stories contain 3 c’s; Context, Choice, and Consequence. In a business setting, these 3 acts can be executed in how you talk about your work, in a photo, in a presentation, or in a video. There is no trick, there is no secret sauce that’s meant for people more talented than you, there are simply 3 c’s. We’re going to talk about these 3 c’s in the frame of you being asked the question, “why do you do what you do?” Or “how did you get into this line of work?”
This is my answer to the question, “how did you get into the story business?”
I was pretty unfulfilled working for someone else. I had always wanted to own my own business, and every piece of me wanted to quit and start doing something I cared about. Of course that spilled over into my personal life, if I’m not happy at work, it’s hard for me to be a happy person. That’s when my good friend got a parking ticket.
He had parked, run into his apartment to grab change, and by the time he came out, there was a ticket on his windshield. So with no money and no discernible video skills, we took off with a Sony Handicam to create Six Minutes. After winning a few awards and having lots of praise dumped on us, our story made it all the way to being referenced in a city council meeting over the argument of the ‘parking meter gustapo’ in Royal Oak. I realized that this was my calling. To tell stories that can have an impact.
So I walked into my boss’ office the week after the city council meeting and I quit. I was doing it! It took a bit to get off the ground, but I started my own business. I’ve never looked back.
You’ve heard the term “context is everything.” In our work, it’s more important than that. It’s everything… um… plus everything else. (?) You can’t have any sort of impact without properly setting context. In that respect, it’s often times the thing that I actually finish last. Sometimes on my first blush through a story, I’ll take a stab at creating context, but you don’t know exactly what kind of table you need to set for a listener until the story is complete. I also love to tease Act 3 in this moment. It’s a great place for a call back. There are generally 3 pieces of context you need to set in this setting of “how did you get into this work?”
1. What were you doing at the time?- I was working for someone else.
2. How did you feel at the time?- Unfulfilled
4. How was that affecting your world?- I was unhappy
5. What was the inciting incident?- Parking ticket
Choice is sometimes called “Conflict” but we prefer to call it choice. I think the idea of a Conflict kicking off Act 2 comes from a truly American love for stories of good vs evil. Often times these are represented in what is called a “Hero’s Journey.” The Hero’s Journey is no doubt a brilliant storytelling tool, made famous by Joseph Campbell, but it’s not the end of story telling as we know it, and quite frankly I think it’s a bit played out. That leaves us back at Choice. Generally, a Choice is presented at the beginning of Act 2 and it kicks off a series of events that usually create more and more strife for ourProtagonist. Steven Pressfield tells us to make certain our hero suffers, and Act 2 is exactly where that chaos goes… often times as a result of the Choice she made. For a script writer or an author, it’s done in a couple hundred pages. You might get 2 sentences.
In my story, the action begins as we start making a video and are rewarded for it.
Consequence is, in a sense, your shot at closing down the story. This is probably the part you usually lead with when asked how you got into this. But not anymore! Now you’ve set the context, you’ve built up to a moment, and BAM! Hit em with it.
In my story, the consequence is the quitting of my job and living out my dream of doing work that matters.
So there ya have it! Like everything else we do with story, much of it is in the way you present it, and don’t forget to get a partner that you can practice with. Nothing about this process is easy, and it’s a journey that needs constant refinement. But if you work at it and keep trying new things, when you get the question of “so what got you into that?” you’ll be ready to kill em with it.