This resource provides a brief description of each of the five parts of a story. Use the cheat sheet to help translate the five parts into your own words, and explain them to participants in the way that is most helpful.
1. History and Details
The History and Details of a story are what helps the listener "hook in" to a story, and really understand it. History is sometimes necessary to understand why the events of a story matter—for instance, it may be important for listeners to know that you grew up in a small town with a tight knit congregation to understand why you were so surprised the first time you met a non-UU, or moved to an urban area. Details are what "paints a picture" for your listener (the purple walls, rough voice, etc.) and helps them imagine what your experience was like and what in their experience is similar to yours.
2. Conflict or Tension
The conflict or tension of a story is what makes the story interesting—it is the question you ask at the beginning of the story to keep listeners invested until the end. For instance, in classic stories the conflict is often, "Will they ever be together? Are they going to get into a fight?" etc. The trick is, you don't need to have actually had a very dramatic moment to create this drama if your story needs it. For example, if you want to share a story about how your completely wonderful, no fighting-for-a-moment relationship with a Hindu made you want to pursue interfaith work, you can inject potential tension by saying "I wasn't sure how we were going to get along" or "We were so different in these ways... " to keep people guessing even though your story ultimately has a happy ending.
3. Aha! Moment
The Aha! Moment is the moment in your story when you realize why your story is important. It connects the questions of your conflict to the answers of your resolution. The Aha! Moment does not have to happen right after the main events of the story—for instance, in Eboo Patel's "This I Believe" story, the conflict was the anti-Semitic thugs and what Eboo would do about it, and he didn't have his Aha! Moment until years later when his friend shared how hurtful Eboo's inaction had been.
The resolution is the close to the main action of your story. It is what might be called the "moral" in a fairy tale. It describes how the conflict or tension was concluded. If your story is something you are still struggling with, your resolution does not have to be clean and can even be another question—you just have to make it clear that there was some resolution. For instance, if you had an experience that showed you didn't know what you wanted to do with your life and you're still figuring it out, you can say, "So, I am now seriously asking myself the questions of a life—what will I do in my future, and how can I live out my values?"
The Action is what takes a literary story and makes it a persuasive or invitational story. It describes how your behavior has changed now that you have experienced your story, and invites your listener to similarly change their behavior in response. In this context, common actions might be "So I joined this youth group at my congregation" or "So I planned an interfaith service activity."