#117) How Story Circles Narrative Training Works: Details from a Graduate

Because Story Circles Narrative Training is a long term process we’ve been hesitant to attempt “assessment metrics.” The training is 10 one hour sessions, usually weekly, but it can take up to a year to see the full results. That’s how narrative is — it takes time. For now, the training is better described qualitatively. To that point here are the detailed comments of a recent graduate telling about the value of the training.


THE GOOD OLD DAYS. A flashback to one of the first Story Circles Demo Days from early 2015.


Here’s the comments of a recent graduate of the 10 one hour sessions of Story Circles who works with a government agency.

OVERALL VALUE – Story Circles really helped clarify the ABT. However, the log-line maker/hero’s journey is emphasized more during the story circles than during the introductory Demo Day session. Thus, one gains insight on how to write a narrative longer than a couple of paragraphs during story circles. One also begins to recognize this structure during movies and how it is a successful formula for a good movie…..

TIME COMMITMENT – The amount of time is not demanding and is worth it. Even if you wait until the last minute to do the homework (or don’t do it all for the days you aren’t on the hook for some writing), the time spent listening to the rest of the group’s comments and engaging in the discussion, will have an impact on your thinking and writing.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE – The opportunity to intensely practice recognizing, analyzing, and creating narrative structures was something I would otherwise not have undertaken. The story circles deepened my understanding of the ABT and improved my writing. It’s like learning a musical instrument or a new sport: practice, practice, practice.

IMMEDIATE VALUE – The challenge to my thinking that came from the story circles helped me reframe a major message about my program – I used the ABT structure in a presentation within days of this realization and have changed all my presentations and write-ups to incorporate this same ABT structure. This new message structure greatly strengthens how I communicate the unique value of our programs.

THE SUPPORTING MATERIALS – The reference cards and the handbook provided for the story circles are immensely useful aids. One can look at the reference cards during discussions to help with the ABT analysis and stay on track. I still refer to these aids when I am writing – whether it is on the job or at home. However, one needs to sit in a story circle and go through these aids to fully grasp how useful they can be – and how useful a narrative structure is to effective communication.

Story Circles is unique. We make no apologies for the time involved (and actually it’s really not that much, just an hour a week) as well as how challenging the sessions can sometimes be. You get back what you put into communication training. It’s about developing “narrative intuition,” and that takes work.

But the flip side is what you get from Story Circles, which you can see in the comments above. To put it simply, it’s a fascinating form of training that can crack your mind open to viewing the world in a whole different way.

If you have specific questions feel free to email me at: rolson@usc.edu