“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”-Ernest Hemingway
Although every story is different, all great stories share one thing in common: structure. Or, in other words, a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is the laying of the foundation or “setting the scene”. The middle then presents some level of conflict or tension, a problem that needs solving. And the end brings with it resolution. Pretty simple, right? Surprisingly, though, these elements are left out all the time from stories. And what happens to the readers of these? They lose interest. Why? Because there was nothing that engaged them! Your job as a storyteller is to give your reader/viewer a reason to…
Here’s an example of a simple yet effective story we told for one of our video partners Baptist Health. It’s relatable, presents a clear problem, and gives an answer to that problem, all in about one minute.
People have been telling stories since the beginning of time. Perhaps you grew up hearing stories before bed, or around a campfire. We all definitely hear stories at work (or, “gossip”, as it is more famously called). Our ears perk up at the sound of them, and why is this? Well, curiosity, for one. But there are actual hormonal reactions that occur in our bodies when we hear stories. They can produce dopamine, which promotes focus, motivation, and memory retention. How do you do this? By including suspense or “cliffhangers” within your narrative. They can also create oxytocin, known for promoting generosity, trust, and bonding. Do this by eliciting empathy from your listener. Perhaps conveying a heartfelt story about loss, or the joy of your child’s smile on Christmas morning, etc. And lastly, endorphins. These are perhaps best known to be produced in the gym. You know the feeling: relaxed, focused, etc.
Of course there are others as well, such as cortisol (released when we are stressed, as in watching a horror film). But the point is clear: if you can bring about these emotional responses from your audience, these effects will show themselves. So what’s your objective in your storytelling? Find that and then write according to the reaction you want to get.
Another important element of writing, is thinking on what is your customer’s viewpoint? What are the stories going on in their heads? How do they view the world, or make choices on a daily basis? I have always said it is the stories I read and watched as a child that shaped me into the person I am. And it is stories that still do this, even now. So what were the stories your prospective client grew up hearing? And which do they listen to now? Definitely maintain and include your own perspective, but bear theirs in mind too when creating.
Obviously there’s a place for more “long-winded” storytelling. But your brand’s marketing isn’t one of them. With the average viewer’s attention span lasting about 8 seconds these days, it will serve you to get to the point. Plus, taking away from stories is as powerful as what you keep in, so consider editing your friend. As in the above quote from Hemingway, with very little you can do much, if the little is good.
Don’t be too precious with your work, though. Remember, if you know your objective, ensure the “3 acts” are there and keep it simple, your story should be quite good. So keep it creative, and have fun.