Anatomy of a Great Story
Imagine yourself in a crowded room with everyone you know. Now, do a mental experiment: visualize how two of your friends would tell the same story. Pick one friend who is a regular star in conversations, and one of your most boring friends, who is nice, but can’t really talk. Do you realize how the same story would sound totally different when told by two people?
What’s Storytelling All About?
Storytelling is an art – that’s the best definition that grasps the essence of this skill. Not everyone can do it, but we can all become better in it.
Now, we come down to an important question: why are we connecting storytelling with blogging and branding? It’s the only trick that helps you develop a strong bond with your readers. When you become a successful storyteller, they will recognize your way of expression without reading the author’s name.
Remember: whatever the purpose of your website is, you are still dealing with people. It’s easy to forget about that aspect when you’re not having face-to-face contact with them. Your main goal is to help them solve problems and improve the quality of their lives. As a result of that bond – you get revenue and everyone is happy.
Storytelling is the link that connects these two extreme dots: the desire of your consumers to find solutions and your desire to earn money through a successful online project.
The Anatomy of a Great Story
It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a blog post, crafting an infographic, or developing content for your website – the form of a story will always enable you to grab the attention of your audience. What’s your first thought on the concept “anatomy of a great story”? Are you thinking about a precise form you’re supposed to maintain? You probably wrote too many 5-paragraph essays in college, so you expect a story to be determined by precise rules and expectations. You’ll be relieved to know that it’s not!
Digital storytelling is a freestyle form of expression that allows you to share everything that’s on your mind. Of course you should maintain clear form and organization of the piece, since that’s the only way to keep your audience interested and entertained. However, you can forget all about those academic writing rules you used to hate in college.
John Truby, a respected consultant in the film industry, wrote the book The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller. The book contains techniques presented in the same order that you use to craft a story.
There is one section of the book that tells you to use these 7 key elements when developing the structure of your story:
- Weakness and need
- New equilibrium
Let’s see how you can use this anatomy to develop a successful online article. You start by explaining who the hero of your story is. Of course, this should be your potential consumer. You can start the article with some questions, so the reader will recognize himself in the character. Then, you will state the weaknesses and needs of the protagonist.
For example, you can take a student who cannot complete an essay for school, and then you can continue by stating his desire to earn good grades and impress the professor. The opponent in this case can be lack of time or resources. Think of any obstacles that would prevent the reader from achieving the goal. Then, you develop a plan that would lead to success, and you explain how he can get through all those obstacles (that’s your battle right there). The new equilibrium is the final stage of your story – you already presented the solutions and now the reader knows what action he should take in order to get to the state he aims for.
When you awaken the reader’s emotions (and you will do that by inspiring him to solve a particular problem), you can easily link those emotions to your brand.
How to Master the Art of Storytelling in the Digital Age
Okay, now that you understand how you can develop a good story for the purposes of your online brand, let’s go through some quick tips that will help you become the master of digital-age storytelling.
Don’t be the boring friend from the example in the beginning of this post. You want to develop an engaging style of writing that will awaken the emotions of your readers. Since you cannot use mimics, voice tone, and facial expressions in writing, you’ll need to fill in that gap with emoticons, videos, infographics, photos, and other types of visual content that will convey your actual ideas.
The conversational approach always works. No one likes reading formal stories, so let’s remind ourselves once again: it’s time to forget about the principles of writing your college teachers forced on us. We need to stay real and talk to our readers in the same way we talk to our friends. There is no need for pretending.
Your readers will connect with your brand if they know you went from the same struggles and you found the solutions. For example, let’s say you’re suggesting a specific method that will help them beat anxiety. If they know you have actually used the very same method to overcome that problem, they will trust you.
This means that you need to share some personal stories, too. Don’t be afraid to reveal your strengths, weaknesses, and the journey that got you where you are today. Have you noticed how Instagram yogis and fitness gurus share fragments of their struggles and accomplishments every day? That’s a good example of storytelling in the digital era.
- Keep it short, sweet, and simple
Short is a relative term in storytelling. Sometimes you can’t tell a story effectively in 250 words, so you have to write more. However, you should always try to estimate the attention span of your readers and keep the length of your posts within those limits.
- Maintain consistency in style
You can experiment up to a certain extent, but you cannot create brand awareness if you use different style in every story you share. You need to express the identity of your brand throughout the website. You should maintain that style consistent even when you connect with your audience via social media channels. The Oatmeal is a nice example of such consistency that led to major popularity among the online audience, as well as instant brand recognition.
Show, Don’t Tell!
Showing is the main purpose of storytelling. You can achieve that effect by awakening the true interest of your audience, sharing a story that seems realistic, and using examples whenever you try to prove a point. You need to avoid information dumps that would make the readers suspicious of your involvement, knowledge, and capacity to help.
Remember: many blogs and websites are fighting for the same share of attention you’re after. If you keep your readers engaged with an interesting story, you will spark the emotions that will lead to greater brand awareness. From that point on, you can call yourself a successful storyteller.