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The Simplest Way to Tell a Story

SOAR, The Simple Formula for Telling Stories

You are a natural storyteller. Humans developed these big brains to make sense of the world. We do that by telling ourselves stories about what is happening and what it means. But sometimes, even the most gifted storytellers can get stuck. If you have a story to tell, and you’re staring at a blank sheet of paper, here’s a way to quickly get started. Structure your story using the SOAR method.

SOAR is an acronym for: set the scene, describe the obstacle, tell us what action you took, and share the results.

  • Set the Scene: Tell us where you are, who you’re with, and your situation.
  • Obstacle: Stories are about mere mortals overcoming barriers in their way. What are you up against? What’s your goal? Every story begins with a world out of balance. There is an inciting incident that sends you into the story.
  • Action: What did you do about the obstacle? If there is a problem, you take steps to solve the problem. Tell us what you did.
  • Results: What was the outcome? More than likely, some of the actions worked, and others…not so much. Maybe you succeeded and reached your goal. Or perhaps you failed utterly. Or maybe you overcame that obstacle only to be confronted by the next hurdle.

It’s that simple. SOAR.

An Example of a Story Using SOAR

A friend of mine recently told me a story. She might not have known it, but she was using SOAR.

Set the Scene

Because of the COVID-19 virus, school is canceled for at least the next two weeks, maybe longer. It feels a little scary and uncertain. Our house is a little too small for the whole family under the best of circumstances. My oldest daughter, Jane, is in a dark mood. She’s old enough to understand just how bad this can all be. And yet, she’s stuck in the house and away from her friends.

Henry and I are working from home. The only real workspace is our tiny kitchen table. Jane is sitting with us, trying to keep up with homework and her friends. There’s just not enough room, and things are getting tense.


Jane looks up from her laptop. “Holy crap.”

“What?” Henry and I ask at the same time.

“It’s Bill’s 90th birthday.”

Bill is the neighbor that everyone looks to for help. If your sink is dripping, or you need someone to water your plants while you’re on vacation, Bill is the first to step up. The entire neighborhood loves him. Because he is right next door to us, my family is very close to him. But Jane is closest to him of all. He is her surrogate grandfather, confidant, and provider of small hard candies. He used to give her two pieces of candy and tell her, “One for now and one for later.”

Bill’s 90th birthday is momentous. But there’s a problem. With the COVID-19 virus going around, we’re not going to have a big party. And, just visiting with Bill at this point feels like it’s putting his life at risk.


Jane comes up with an idea. What if we each write a birthday card and tape it to his window so that he can read it from inside? Henry and I jump at the idea. We scramble around the house, looking for birthday cards. Nothing.  Jane suggests that we do what she used to do when she was little. We make the cards out of construction paper and crayons.

So, that’s what we did. We take our laptops off the kitchen table and break out the construction paper and crayons. We each write heartfelt messages on brightly colored construction paper. When we finish, we show each other our handiwork. On Jane’s birthday card, there’s a brightly colored piece of candy taped to the corner. Beside it, she wrote a note. “One for later.”

We find the tape and march over to Bill’s kitchen window, the one that looks toward our house. Jane taps on the window, and after a minute, Bill comes to the window and looks out. We all sing happy birthday, then one by one, we tape our birthday greetings to the window. Jane is last. Bill sees the piece of candy and loses it. We all lose it.

We make our way home with hugs.


As we reach the side door to our house, my cell phone rang. I thought it was going to be Bill. Instead, it was the neighbor across the street, Ramona. She asked me what we were doing, and I told her. I look at Jane and add, “It was Jane’s idea.”

Ramona walked over to Bill’s house and took a picture. About five minutes later, I see that Ramona has posted the photo on Facebook and tagged Jane. Then, one family at a time, our neighbors walked over to Bill’s house and put up their cards. Pretty soon, the house is festooned with colorful paper on the windows.

Bill calls me, and we cry together on the phone. I hand the phone to Jane. Now, she’s a mess.

More neighbors took pictures and posted them on social media. They tagged Jane and thanked her for such a bright idea. Today, the world feels friendlier, and we don’t feel so alone.

Do You Have a Story to Share?

I’m looking for stories of people who thrive in life, connect with others, and contribute to the world. These stories are especially important during this time of crisis.

Share your story here:

Or, nominate someone else to tell their story here: