Develop the Basic Elements of your Story!

What exactly is a story? We can all tell stories and we do so, every day. But if we want to work with stories in business, we have to be clear about the basic elements that make up a story, and the differences between a good and an inferior story. We can then work with these elements in a purposeful way, and think, for example, about how to construct a story for a particular target group or area of use.

Every story basically consists of six key elements. Not all of them have to be part of a story. Certainly, however, the first two:

The Main CharacterThe Aim / TargetThe Supporter(s)The Antagonist(s)The Benefactor(s)The Beneficiaries

What impels each character to act in a certain way? What is the principal aim and how can this be best introduced in the story? Did it change over time? These are just a few questions you should ask yourself when working on your story.

This tool guides you systemically through the basic elements of your story. In a step-by-step approach you can read more about all roles and put down your thoughts on this role in your own story.

At the end you get the possibility to download an overview sheet which contains your descriptions and the outline of how the basic elements in your story interact with one another.

Develop the Basic Elements of your Story!

Who is the main character in your story?

Every story has a Main Character. The focus of every story is a person, the Main Character. Every story is about someone, an individual or a group of people. The first question that arises in developing a business story is therefore: who is the Main Character? It can be a single person (e.g. the company’s founder), or a team (the group responsible for developing a particular product), or indeed the entire company. Identifying the Main Character is crucial – otherwise, there is a risk that the story will comprise too many narrative strands, which will weaken its impact. In the case of your entrepreneurial story, you could decide, for example, that the Main Character should be yourself, or the team involved in setting up the company.

Describe your main character:

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Develop the Basic Elements of your Story!

What is the main character's central aim in your story?

The Main Character of any story has an aim, a focus of desire, that (s)he is determined to attain. In a love story, the aim is winning the hand of the adored one; in a crime story, it is catching the murderer; in an adventure film, finding the hidden treasure; in a company story, the creation of the company or the marketing of a product. The Main Character and his/her goal – this is the backbone of any story. The aim can be chosen by the Main Character itself (“I’m determined to marry X or Y”), or it can be defined by the situation, as in many thrillers: the Main Character becomes the victim of a mysterious threat and must fight to recover his/her freedom.

Describe the main character's central aim:

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Develop the Basic Elements of your Story!

Who is an essential Supporter in your story?

In addition to the Main Character and his/her central aim, stories include further roles, which can be filled or not, and can help to enrich a company’s story and make it more interesting:

Supporters are persons who help the Main Character to achieve the desired aim. A supporter can be a team, a business partner, an NGO or a government program – or an adviser or consultant who assists the entrepreneur in setting up the company.

Describe the essential Supporter(s) in your story:

500 characters remaining

Develop the Basic Elements of your Story!

Who is an Antagonist in your story?

In addition to the Main Character and his/her central aim, stories include further roles, which can be filled or not, and can help to enrich a company’s story and make it more interesting:

The Antagonist is the opposite of the Supporter. He/she makes life difficult for the Main Character by seeking to block the achievement of the aim, possibly because his/her own activities are directed at the same goal. In a love story, the Antagonist is the love rival. In a business story, the Antagonist can be a competitor, who may even resort to unfair means, or a social group that opposes the entrepreneur’s business model. The role of the Antagonist can also be filled, not by a person, but by adverse circumstances such as an economic crisis.

Describe the Antagonist of your story:

500 characters remaining

Develop the Basic Elements of your Story!

Is there a Benefactor in your story?

In addition to the Main Character and his/her central aim, stories include further roles, which can be filled or not, and can help to enrich a company’s story and make it more interesting:

The Benefactor is a person who helps the Main Character by providing the means for him/her to achieve the desired aim – this can be, for example, an investor, or an inventor who licenses the entrepreneur to manufacture a product.

Describe the Benefactor in your story:

500 characters remaining

Develop the Basic Elements of your Story!

Who are the Beneficiaries in your story?

In addition to the Main Character and his/her central aim, stories include further roles, which can be filled or not, and can help to enrich a company’s story and make it more interesting:

The Beneficiaries are those who benefit from the achievement of the Main Character’s aim. In the first place, this is the entrepreneur himself/herself, who ends up with a successful company. However, the customers too are Beneficiaries, since they now have, for example, clean drinking water or an app that makes life easier for them. The entrepreneur’s family, or the people of the village where jobs have been created, can also be Beneficiaries.

Describe the Beneficiaries in your story:

500 characters remaining

Develop the Basic Elements of your Story!

By having gone through the six key elements of a story, you have defined all principal roles and have identified the backbone of your story (Main Character → Aim). This is a good start!

Below you can export and download your overview sheet that contains the information provided by you about the differnt roles and elements. This sheet also outlines how the roles and elements interact with one another and can serve you as a guideline when working on your story. You can open it again at anytime and remind yourself about what you took down initially.

In case you want to change something in your sheet, you can do so by navigating back to the corresponding story element. Afterwards just click your way through back to this page and you can export and download a revised version of your sheet by clicking again on the export & download link above.

Now that the roles are defined, the story can be set in motion: by focusing on the plot!

The basic elements of a story are very simple and are always the same: A story begins at a certain point in time and ends at another point in time. Stories always have a temporal structure, a feature that distinguishes them from other forms of communication, such as a description or a datasheet. A product description has a logical structure, listing the product’s features and applications, whereas a story, with a temporal structure, presents a sequence of events: first, one thing happens, and then another.

For the purpose of developing your plot, you can use our Virtual Storyline Graph tool below.

Draw your own Storyline Graph!

Optimized for desktop use.

Now you can put your learnings into practice and draft your own story with our Virtual Storyline Graph tool below.

The horizontal line from left to right represents the timespan that your story will cover. The vertical line from bottom to top categorises the type of developments in your story. The higher up you place events in the tool, the better those events have influenced your entrepreneurial success; the lower you place them, the more those events have been challenging and risky for your entrepreneurial story. As you are visually prototyping your story, don’t spend too much time pondering over this.

You can start by adding your first Key Turning Point into the graph. Choose the type of the turning point by clicking on the respective icon in the popup and describe the event, if you want to. You can read more about the Key Turning Points on page 25 of the workbook, if you like. To make it easier for you in this tool, we start directly with adding points. Once you click on Save the Turning Point will show up in the graph and you can position it with your mouse at the right moment in time of your story, just drag and drop it.

If you want to edit the description of a Key Key Turning Point, change its category or delete it, just doubleclick on it and you will be able to do so. Once you are done with drafting your story, you can click on Export my Storyline Graph and save it as an image on your computer. You can then take it up anytime later on and turn it into a fully-fledged story.