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Storytelling Secret Sauce - Part 4: Mind the Map

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

We all start from the same place.

You've gotten to the point. You have a solid premise and set-up. Essentially, you've done for your story what a good painter does before painting - prepped the room. Now it's time to choose the paint, brushes, and finish of your paint, we mean, story. Enter mind maps.

Your story GPS.

Mind maps are just a creative way to make sure your story works and gets from point A to point B to point C without being rerouted. This is important because the more solid our story, the more "sticky" it is in our communications. Like any good GPS, it will tell you the fastest way to get to where you are going, not necessarily the most direct. Why is this important? Well, you can have a quick storyline showing how your protagonist goes from nerdy scientist to marketer of the year but if it doesn't make sense, it's going to take a long time to get the audience on board. The fastest route may be more circuitous but should be a whole lot more effective.

Open up your idea box.

You've escaped your escape room (see previous blog) and have a sold theme. Great. Now it's time to take that theme and start to connect any and all ideas that relate to that theme. This not only helps to frame the story and provide an outline but also makes connections among and between these ideas that may have not been initially apparent.

But first, plan with purpose.

Before you get over-eager and start ideating, make sure you understand the purpose of your mind map. That will help you organize your information. In this case, we want to tell a story. So if your central theme is "Where would we be without" and the purpose is to compel our audience to take a 2nd look at an otherwise "failed" product, we start to map ideas based on other products that given a 2nd chance rocketed to stardom. If, however, our purpose was to put a project plan together, we would map our ideas more based on linear steps. required.

Step 1: Draw a box or bubble, or write boldly, the main idea in the center of your map.

Go ahead - branch out!

Now that you have the main concept and purpose, add branches to your central "tree trunk". These will help to start to outline key subtopics and supporting ideas for your central concept.

Keep doing this, adding branches to each branch, for a few rounds, at least, until you feel like you have a full mind map to work from to outline your story.

Step 2: Draw a box or bubble, or write each subtopic that relates to your central idea and connect to the central theme with lines

Step 3: Add new ideas for each subtopic in a similar fashion and connect those with lines to their subtopic

Step 4: Rinse and repeat if you identify further ideas under each branch level

Get weird!

This is where the fun begins because now, you can also look to where there may be connections between branches not near each other, and what could connect them. Get weird! This technique is used often in joke mapping to connect two disparate ideas together in (hopefully) funny ways. Like any interesting family tree, you'll start to find connections that you never knew were there before but will make for a great story.

Step 5: Get creative with colors, emojis, symbols, phrases, and fonts to identify main and subtopics, prioritize significant branches, and/or connect branches that may not appear to be connected

The VITAL5 ROUNDUPStorytelling Secret Sauce: The Promise & Set-up

1. Update your GPS – get your audience to your story quickly

2. Open your idea box – no idea is a bad idea. List them and then let it flow.

3. Plan with purpose double check your main concept matches your goal.

4. Branch out– no idea is bad but some are more relevant than others - use as many subtopic branch layers as you need.

5. Get weird –use colors, images, emojis, and colors to bring connections to life.

In our next post on Storytelling Secret Sauce, we go from the branch of trees to the rhythm of threes!

VitalConex is a connect-and-create company. To learn more about the "peanut butter cup" of successful teams, check us out at


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