Telling your Story: Act 2 - The Nightmare

(A note: this is part 2 in my series on creating a StoryDeck. Part 1 is here - The Destination.)

Alfred:In their desperation, they turned to a man they didn’t understand.

Bruce:Criminals aren’t complicated Alfred, we just need to figure out what he’s after.

Alfred:With respect, Master Wayne, maybe this is a man you don’t fully understand either.

This moment in The Dark Knight is when Alfred tells Bruce Wayne and the audience why our hero is failing.

Because, at first, this monster seemed a relatively weak one.

The Joker had no friends, money, strength, brawn, or gadgets.

And yet, he’s destroying Gotham, and Batman is failing.

You don't know what you don't know

I know I didn’t.

I felt terrible - low energy, struggling to exercise, putting on weight.

But then, I am in my late thirties now with three young kids.

Maybe this is just what it is to be middle-aged and living with sleep deprivation.

This was me, kids jumping all over me, feeling pretty rough!

I’m struggling to find the energy to work out, so I shift my training routine from 5:30 AM to lunchtime and then late afternoon.

Doesn’t work.

My energy levels didn’t pick up, but I did notice my hair thinning (rapidly). Lovely!

Yep, I thought to myself, I’m getting old. That’s why I feel like this.

But as the year progresses, I feel worse and new symptoms emerge.

I continue to self-diagnose and medicate until I finally see a doctor to discover if all these symptoms are connected.

Two minutes into the conversation, the doctor tells me all symptoms are down to an underactive thyroid.

Blood tests confirm the diagnosis. I’m prescribed some pills, and within weeks, all those negative symptoms start to go away.

And now me transformed.


It's a common sequence of events

Your future clients are experiencing them as you read this.

They don’t have a thyroid issue (I think).

But they’re struggling, and they don’t know why.

The doctor helped me out, and Alfred helped Bruce Wayne:

“Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

It’s at that moment when our guide, Alfred, diagnoses the problem.

Simply trying to batter or barter the Joker into submission won’t work.

Batman misdiagnosed the problem

And it’s at the heart of our sales story.

In the previous article, we shared a snapshot of the destination with the audience.

This second section presents them with a familiar struggle and monster.

At some point, if our hero is to save the day and achieve their desired outcome, they’ll overcome that monster.

But not yet.

At first, they’ll try to defeat the monster and fail. They’ll approach the brink of desperation when all seems lost.

And that failure stems from this misdiagnosis of the problem.

A copywriter might refer to this as poking the pain.

Act 2 - The Nightmare

Here's my deck structure layout

Act 2 - The Nightmare follows The Destination from the previous email.

Let’s continue with last week's example.

In her TED talk, Zoë Karl-Waithaka is selling the following idea: How marketing could improve the lives of African farmers.

Let’s look at the second section of her presentation. The Nightmare stage:

  • I have met and spoken to farmers, and some of them have said: I have a product, but I don’t have a market in which to sell it. Or, I have a market, but it’s too small.
  • Many of the people in [sub-Saharan Africa] agriculture are smallholders. They live on less than two hectares of land and have very small incomes that put them at or below the poverty line.
  • For decades, the development community has been trying to change this, primarily with a supply-side focus of working with farmers, giving them access to seeds and fertilizers, showing them how to improve their productivity so that they could grow more, have more to sell and eat and ultimately increase their incomes.
  • Billions of dollars have been spent on this. And unfortunately, today, many African farmers are still poor. So why is that?

Here’s the structure of this section:

Here's a breakdown on what the Nightmare slides look like

You see, Zoë shares the failed attempts, the pain of those attempts, and the frustration that follows. Having spent all this time and money, we still haven’t solved this problem.

That's how you build the nightmare stage

Tell us what happened (farmer harvested crops) and the monster that arose as a result (nobody to sell them to).

That monster brings with it destruction and chaos (small incomes below the poverty line).

Our hero diagnosed the problem (a lack of supply) and took steps to address it (improve productivity).

But it didn’t work. They’re still suffering (farmers are still poor), and that pain hurts more than ever (billions of dollars have been spent).

That’s our nightmare.

Next comes the critical part of the story. The Twist.

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