The 5 C’s Of The Storytelling Arc : Circumstances, Conflict, Crisis, Climax, Conclusions (Part 2)

How You Can Apply Them to Your WorkLife Story (Part 2)

Photo by Tugba Tirpan

A Picture Tells a WorkLife Story

The story I wrote and shared yesterday began from a photo I discovered as I was going through the files on my laptop. This led me to look for the original corresponding script/ story, which I then shared in this story: The 5 C’s Of The Storytelling Arc: Circumstances, Conflict, Crisis, Climax, Conclusions (Part 1)

As a WorkLife Learning Practitioner and Writer, I collaborate with Performing, Visual and Literary Artists to deliver events that bring the arts to WorkLife learning. The photo and story I shared were from a workshop we did called: How To Deliver Great Presentations, Incorporating Story.

As I continued to sort through my files, I came across the above preceding photo of the actors acting out the Disaster Story Arc (they also acted out the Cinderella Story Arc) that lead in to me telling my story

Here’s the corresponding script that accompanied that photo. (Including actor notes and direction)

… And Action!

Sam: We’re now going to look at Dramatic Story Structure and how you can use this to shape your presentation/story in a way that creates an experience for your audience.

Hannah: (Putting on her gown and hat) All stories, no matter what they are about or where they come from, from mythic adventures to recollections shared around the dinner table, follow a clear pattern that can be easily remembered as ‘The Five Cs’: Circumstances, Conflict, Crisis, Climax and Conclusion. Let’s take the story of Cinderella to see what this might mean.

Julie: It starts with her awful life with evil stepsisters scrubbing the fireplace. [Hannah: “Her Circumstances”] Then she gets an invitation to the ball! Things lookup. Oh, but she doesn’t have anything to wear, and how will she get there! [Hannah: “Conflict”] Then the fairy godmother makes her a dress and a coach. Phew! Then she goes to the ball and dances with the prince! This is great! But then it’s midnight. She has to go before it all falls apart! [Hannah: “Crisis.”] Oh no. Sadness. Back to her humdrum life scrubbing the fireplace. But it’s not as bad as before, because she’s had this encouraging experience. Then, the prince finds her, and the happiness factor is off the chart! [Hannah: “Climax.”] Happily ever after. [Hannah: “Conclusion!”]

Hannah draws the ARC on the Flip Chart (dressed in gown and hat)

Hannah: People LOVE that story! This story arc has been written a thousand times in a thousand tales. And because of it, people think their lives are supposed to be like this.

Jon: But are they?

Hannah: Well, let’s look at another popular story arc: The Disaster.

Sam: It’s an ordinary day in an ordinary town. [Hannah: “Circumstances”.] People gather for a town hall meeting and learn that the planned development works that would save the town from economic ruin have been halted because the company behind the development have found what they believe is a more suitable town. [Hannah: “Conflict”] Old grudges surface. But then something terrible happens! A child falls down a well! [Hannah: “Crisis”] The whole town gathers to save her. The old grudges that surfaced are belittled in the light of this tragedy. Rifts are bonded as people work together. The child is saved, and all is well. [Hannah: “Climax”] People go back to their lives, But notice it’s a little better than it was before, now that this incident has brought them all closer together. The developers change their minds — again! The actions of the people in the town coming together makes them want to be part of this community. [Hannah: “Conclusion”.]

Hannah draws the ARC on the Flip Chart.

Hannah: People LOVE that story! This story arc has been written a thousand times in a thousand tales. And because of it, people think their lives are supposed to be like this.

Carl: But are they? The problem is, life is really like this… Our lives drift along with normal things happening. Some ups, some downs, but nothing to go down in history about. Nothing so fantastic or terrible that it’ll be told for a thousand years.

Hannah draws Ups/Downs/Bumps in the road ARC on the Flip Chart [Hannah looks confused, unable to put Carl’s ‘story’ of life into the 5 points]

Dan: But is that true? let’s listen to Carmel’s story:

Cue my entrance. Here’s my story (again).

And that’s the 5 C’s Of Storytelling: Circumstances, Conflict, Crisis, Climax, and Conclusion.

Have a go at applying them to your WorkLife story.

Cinderella and The Disaster stories and story arcs are from Kurt Vonnegut’s talk, in which he explains drama. I’ve adapted them to demonstrate the 5C’s.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.

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