What are the most important ingredients to a story? How do you keep your audiences spellbound from the start to the end?
Sharing her experience as a New York based professional storyteller (how cool is that) with The Moth, Tricia shared that stories are more than just anecdotes.
While stories and anecdotes have narrative structures, most stories have the following elements:
Beyond these five basic elements, however, the best stories are built on three key principles:
By using these principles, you can sharpen your content marketing efforts and achieve better outcomes when you craft your brand and customer stories.
Let’s look at these principles in detail, and see how we can apply them to our brand storytelling efforts.
What do you think about when you consider a story’s theme?
For some, it could be the proverbial moral of the story, ie the lesson that you hope to communicate in the narrative. For others, it could be the “Why” of a story, ie the motivation behind the story that is being told.
According to Tricia, a theme is what the story is all about, while the plot dictates what happens in a story:
As you go about brainstorming over your brand story’s theme, it may be useful to ask yourself the following questions:
The best stories tend to have just two or three main themes. Once you’ve identified what your core theme is, you should try to eliminate all other sub-themes that may distract your audiences.
Here are some examples of themes in popular culture:
According to Tricia, a real story needs to demonstrate transformation — especially in your main protagonist (the hero of your story.)
To do so, you need to introduce what is called a narrative arc in your story. This can be understood by the following steps:
The key ingredient in any story, transformation is the process of change which your audience can imagine in themselves after reading, viewing or listening to your story. Your goal is to help them to transform for the better after they use your products or services.
Here are some questions which you can ask yourself while crafting the story:
Once again, there are several good examples of transformation in popular stories:
Last, but certainly not least, it is important to let your audience know what is at stake in your story.
This can be defined as the rewards that can be enjoyed at the end of the journey should the right actions be taken.
“Something must be won or lost,” Tricia says. “Little wins and losses along the way are what keep people interested along the way.”
In considering the stakes in a story, you need to factor in the following:
Like the earlier point on transformation, you need to consider not just the tangible benefits but the intangible outcomes that may result from the change. This can be crafted in the story, and include possible gains (or losses) in money, time, health, relationships, status, career prospects, and other areas.
If we go back to our four storytelling examples, you can see that the stakes for each saga are clearly communicated:
As a practitioner of brand storytelling, I love how these 3 simple principles help to crystallize the pillars of good stories. These evergreen principles are useful for content marketers to consider when crafting our brand and customer stories. They also help to anchor our story plots on a firm bedrock, and eliminates unnecessary flab and fluff in our narrative.
What are your thoughts on the three principles above? How can you apply them to your own brand storytelling efforts?