The Hidden Logic of a Great Story

Every business begins with a great story.

Every great story is written by an entrepreneur who understands the components of a great story.

But many entrepreneurs (especially first-time founders) have little practice or training on how to tell a great story - to a customer, to an investor, to a potential team member - or even on how to explain their new business to family and friends. We have seen some of the best ideas go unnoticed, unfunded, and unrealized, simply because a founder or team hasn't yet mastered the hidden logic that we are about to explain.

While the best stories use three modes of persuasion - logos, pathos, and ethos - we'll focus on one of the elements that is most misunderstood, and most infrequently used: logos (or logic).

The Situation-Complication-Resolution is a simple and memorable framework that gives structure and logical flow to a story. The framework can be built out in more detail and with more sophistication, especially in a business context, but even the simplest version is an excellent framework for any aspiring entrepreneur or storyteller. The simplest version of S-C-R includes the following:

1. Situation: What is the context of what you are saying? This is a neutral statement that is designed to set the stage for what you are about to share. It introduces a character, a scene, an industry, a business. It provides the background information for the topic you are about to discuss. If we were to treat this blog post as a mini logical story, the Situation is the first two sentences of the post.

2. Complication: What is the twist? What is the turn of events? What is the problem? What is the dilemma facing the audience? What is the "but"? This is where you build a logical hook for your audience and get them to crave an answer to the complication you have just introduced. Usually the complication is something that people will either recognize as a problem they have had before, or you will provide enough facts and evidence to show them that it is a problem. In this specific blog post, the Complication is the third and fourth sentence of the post, running from "But many entrepreneurs..." to "the logic of great storytelling."

3. Resolution: What is your solution? Great resolutions in this framework give the audience a practical solution that they can quickly understand, process, and/or use. Great solutions in a business context answer the "what, when, how long, and who," providing your audience with confidence that the solution you are proposing is not only addressing the problem, but is also practical. Here, in this blog post, the S-C-R framework itself is the Resolution.

While the S-C-R framework is a great tool for structuring your logic and testing the flow of your story, we encourage you to not apply any framework too linearly or in a formulaic way. This framework is not a formula. Additionally, choosing to only focus on the logic of your story will be boring and repetitive! The best stories integrate a logical framework (like S-C-R), capture emotion (pathos), and project credibility (ethos).

The next time you are working on a description of a product, telling a story to a friend, building a pitch for an investor, or working on any kind of application (whether it's to a program, school, or job), experiment with using the S-C-R framework to structure your thoughts, and to tell your story. Observe how the persuasive power of your story changes. We think you (and your audience!) will be impressed.

Mary Winn Miller