Don’t we all love a great story? When stories are told well, the benefits are tremendous, ranging from driving results, leaving a lasting impression, stimulating emotion in the audience — the list goes on.

One cannot underestimate the fact that telling a good story has a lot to do with having a great structure. This is why we have a lot of storytelling structure frameworks — nobody loves rambling and unstructured communication, even if they claim not to care, they will actually appreciate structure. Story structures might not always be linear, but in whatever format the structure is, it should at least tick some structure boxes. Use the "ABDCE" framework to help you structure your story, make it stick and become a more effective communicator at work

A: Action

The pivotal "Action" element serves as the narrative catalyst, propelling the story into motion from the very beginning. This initial event, the "capital A" Action, is strategically positioned at the outset to captivate the audience's attention promptly. Imagine it as the opening scene in a play that instantly draws viewers into the unfolding drama. This deliberate placement ensures that the story kickstarts with a punch, igniting curiosity and setting the stage for what lies ahead.

B: Background

Following the dynamic initiation of Action, the narrative gracefully transitions into the "Background" phase. Here, the storyteller delicately weaves contextual threads, providing necessary exposition or background information. This second act strategically unfolds after the Action, allowing the audience to digest and contextualize information more effectively. Think of it as the canvas on which the story's intricate details are painted, enhancing the depth of the narrative by offering insights into the world it unfolds within.

C: Climax

At the narrative's core lies the "Climax," a pivotal turning point where characters confront the primary struggle head-on. Whether it's the heart-wrenching breakup in a romance tale or the moment of triumph and subsequent collapse in a success story, the Climax thrusts the narrative into a new trajectory. It's the moment of maximum tension, where the story turns inside-out, reshaping the direction entirely. Post-Climax, nothing remains the same, marking a seismic shift in the narrative landscape.

D: Development

As the plot advances, the "Development" phase unfolds, tracing the ripple effects of the main Action. This cause-and-effect chain introduces a cascade of events, each layer intensifying the stakes and complexities within the narrative. While not every story involves life-or-death scenarios, the middle act is characterized by a gradual escalation of tension and challenges. The audience finds themselves entangled in a web of consequences, heightening the emotional investment and anticipation for what's to come.

E: Ending

Directly stemming from the Climax, the concluding "Ending" act seamlessly pulls together the narrative threads, reassembling them in a new configuration. This final act serves as the tapestry where broken elements are either repaired or allowed to gracefully transition. Heroes, whether fallen or triumphant, find resolution or homage. The Ending mirrors the story's beginning but through a transformed lens. It signifies a return to a semblance of the initial status quo, albeit altered by the journey. Change, for better or worse, becomes the lens through which the audience views the story's resolution, leaving a lasting impression.

Storytelling is everywhere

You can’t escape storytelling. It’s present in every conversation, every lesson and every cookbook. You’ll find stories in the most unlikely places. You can also share them anywhere and everywhere. Engaging stories requires an end goal in mind, though. You can’t meander forever, spinning yarns and tall tales without end. 

You have to deliver a message with your story, or it becomes meaningless. Even entertainment requires that meaning. That’s because with meaning comes engagement. Your audience won’t engage well without such meaning in place. Keep that meaning in mind, and deliver each story you have with a goal, even if it’s just to make your audience feel something. That feeling or whatever goal you choose is the measure of success that you’re waiting on. Start telling your stories.

To explore the art of storytelling for effective outcomes in your work, check out the ASU CareerCatalyst course Public Speaking and Presentations.