To be effective, a story should be told from a VIEWPOINT. When the story is told from a viewpoint it is more likely that jurors will connect with it. There are at least three viewpoints to select from: (1) Your client’s view point or the victim’s viewpoint if you are a government lawyer; (2) the third person’s or reporter’s viewpoint - like the Greek Chorus looking down on the play’s action, and (3) the omniscient viewpoint – the shifts from one viewpoint to another.
The LANGUAGE you use in opening should be clear and simple. Don’t do this:
• “The decedent walked into the room.”
• “What were the points of impact between your vehicle and the adverse vehicle.”
• “What was the nature of your conversation?”
• “The aforementioned party subsequently was wrongfully terminated.”
TOO MANY DETAILS and the story gets lost and TOO FEW DETAILS and the story isn’t real. Eliminate unnecessary details that clutter the story. Include details that make the story real.
Watch the following scene of storytelling from the movie A Time to Kill. Assume that the lawyer is giving an opening statement for the prosecution or plaintiff.
Evaluate it for the content – is it a compelling story about a human being and involving human values and needs?
Evaluate the storytelling – What storytelling techniques are used?
Note that the lawyer had a viewpoint – that of a reporter. The language chosen is simple and clear. There are enough details to bring the story alive. The story is told in the present tense ("she falls" rather than "she fell") as though the jurors are watching it happen before them.
The story paints WORD PICTURES. If you want to evoke emotion, paint word pictures. Look at this paragraph and read it as fast as you can:
Aocdcrnig to a rsereearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dse-no’t mtaetr in what oerdr the ltteres in a word are, the olny iproamtnt thing is that the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. This is bcuseae the human mind deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the word as a wlohe. Olny 57% of plepoe can do it.
Interesting – our brains don’t think in words or numbers – we convert them into pictures. We convert words into pictures and emotions. Language does this. We see words. Go right to it – paint pictures and create emotions.
Finally, the WORDS CHOSEN for this story reach the mind and move the heart. There is a big difference between “she said” and “she begged.”