I love this model: the story spine which combines the art of business storytelling with a practical approach for business. I have written about it many times and have used it for years. I learned this model in improv theater – yes, the stage! The stage is where great storytelling happens that takes us on an emotional journey that we care about. It’s just one approach to getting started, and, as you get more experienced and comfortable with the main pieces, you can adapt, extend, add on to this model.


It’s a great, simple way to think through narrative structure for any story. The ‘once upon time’ approach is a universal method that we all recognize and it models not only how great stories move through different elements; it works because that’s how our human brains think. In stories!

It’s called the 7-Step Story Spine created by Kenn Adams. Why I love it is because it helps people think through a structure that advances the story: what happens next, then what happens…until ultimately this happens (some changing event/product/service/issue) and there is a big change for your customer: it’s the ‘because of this, because of this….then that” part of the spine:

The Story Spine

Once upon a time…

Every day…

But, one day..

Because of that…

Because of that…(you can repeat this as many times as you need…less however is more as it is easier to remember!)

Until, finally…

And, ever since then….(something has changed for your customer…what is it?!)

One thing about the story spine is that is just that – a spine. You still have to flesh out specifics and add the emotional undercurrent for your story to be powerful. However, it is a great tool for getting started and when I am dealing with customers who aren’t sure where to start, it’s helps to ensure we think through the big pieces of narrative structure. You can apply it a few ways: I have a part I and part II of an article I wrote a few years ago that will walk you through this.

I also talked about this on my podcast recently and I explain each step.

As you get more comfortable with storytelling, you don’t need to use this model or the exact wording of each step. It’s only there as a guide. Yet, it’s a great place to start. Have fun!

Your Turn

Have you used the story spine? Let me know how. Got another model that works for you? I’d love to hear about it. Share in the comments below. To your storytelling success!

Header image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kodomut/

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