Storytelling is something we have all grown up with in some form or another; be it the stories shared around a dinner table, passed down by grandparents, in the pages of our favorite books or on the big screen.
But what is a story and what makes one better than the next?
Let’s explore some components of storytelling that ultimately dictate its success.
At its most basic level, every story must have a beginning, middle, and end.
Often referred to as Acts 1, 2 and 3, each act typically follows a similar structure:
- Act 1 will serve to set up a story’s tone, its characters and the world in which they live.
- Act 2 will introduce conflict and confrontation.
- Act 3 will entail climax and resolve.
These 3 pillars of storytelling act as a roadmap to move a story forward.
Other aspects of a strong story that add depth and believability are themes, style & tone, character development, and plot.
As the central idea in a story, THEMES help define the universe in which your story will take place. It is a message often communicated in one sentence or less. For example, the topic of revenge could reveal a theme centered around how it can destroy relationships. The topic of love could have multiple themes depending on the perspective of the storyteller and its audience. Overall, a theme is the main message of a story.
CHARACTERS with depth and layers are very important in a great story. We want to like and feel something for our protagonist, cheering him on to reach his objective. On the same note, even the most sinister of villains must have redeeming, relatable qualities to be successful.
In a full-length feature film, there are many more opportunities to establish well-rounded, layered characters than what you’ll find in a 30-second commercial spot. Character development is one of the most integral parts of producing an endearing video. The amount of time you have to work with will determine how many layers your characters can have.
A story does not exist without a PLOT. A strong plot accomplishes several things including engaging its audience. It is a series of events strung together in a methodical fashion meant to keep viewers guessing at every turn. Because it generally entails conflict and struggle for characters in a story, a plot also adds to character development. Facing challenges is the best way to find out what someone is made of.
STYLE & TONE in a story usually come down to the writer’s attitude towards the topic. It is generally conveyed through the choice of words or viewpoint of the writer. It can be formal, informal, cheerful, sad, sarcastic, humorous or any other existing attitude.
Consider both of these paragraphs and then decide what their tone is based on the style of writing. Here we go:
- What’s the big deal? People die all the time from different illnesses and diseases. It’s just that no one cares until it affects them personally or someone they know. In my opinion, they should have done more to save their lives but who’s to say?
- It was felt that more should have been done to aid those suffering from illness and disease. However, generally speaking, an individual does not think too in depth on the matter until they are directly affected by an illness or disease.
Note the casual language of the first paragraph. Its tone is informal. You might imagine it to be a conversation between two friends over coffee. Whereas the second paragraph has a more formal tone. It’s something you might expect to read in a publishing.
While a truly compelling story can be meticulously broken down and explored to no end, the components we’ve listed provide a great framework for the foundational elements of a strong story.
Check out one of our recent productions for Edmonton Economic Development Corporation below and feel free to comment on what you think did or did not work from a storytelling perspective.