Storytelling is a bit of a buzzword these days. Chief storytelling officers have emerged in organizations large and small, marketing summits seem to offer more and more seminars on storytelling, and technology has made everyone a visual storyteller. So how do we stand apart in a saturated marketplace of visual storytelling?
1) Wonder and Wander
J.R. Tolkien, the grandfather of adventures and fantasy, writes in the much beloved novel The Fellowship of the Ring “Not all those who wander are lost.” Tolkien knew better than anyone the value of letting oneself wander without a destination. Well known for leaving the pub in the wee hours of the night to amble around the streets of Oxford with C.S. Lewis, Tolkien engineered some of his most well known characters during their late night strolls. James Joyce was also well known for doing this as he paced across Dublin (in January nonetheless) late into the night, fine tuning the traits of his characters in Ulysses.
2) Write it Down
As creative professionals, ideas and the ability to execute them are what keeps our doors open and clients happy. The ability to dream and imagine fantastical worlds and plots often happen when we least expect it; on a walk, in the shower, cleaning up dog poop... Since we never know exactly when we’ll get ideas about a project or story, character features or plot details, we have to be prepared to catalog them whenever these flashes of inspiration strike. One of the ways that we hold on to these ideas is by keeping a sketchpad on us at all times. In our idea saturated world, thoughts come and go like the wind, and we don’t want to be caught chasing them.
3) Seek out New Experiences
As socially-oriented creatures, we are constantly moving about and engaging with individuals who share similar values, experiences and traditions. However, the storytellers who succeeds in capturing the attention of audiences everywhere are the ones who have left their comfort zones and embraced unfamiliar environments and people. We love to hear stories about inner city kids growing up in adverse circumstances and their acceptance to an Ivy League school, or the self-made millionaire who started from the bottom of a company, only to work their way to the top.
4) Simple Yet Satisfying
Despite the ubiquity of multi-tasking in today’s digital world, it turns out that complexity and lots of detail in stories aren’t necessarily good....as revealed by the harm of multi-tasking. Rather than performing all tasks equally and efficiently, it turns out that people who multi-task have trouble filtering out irrelevant information and perform significantly worse at switching between tasks, according to a study by Clifford Nass. This inability to keep track of multiple items is a reason enough to keep your stories simple and straightforward. When tempted to run into multiple directions with one plot, don’t do it! Audiences maintain higher retention rates with less characters and story lines, and will forge stronger connections with the story.
5) Sequence, Suspense, Contrast
Sequence is an integral part of any narrative. It helps viewers/listeners keep pace with the development of the story and feel that the narrative is building up to something. As these events compound on one another, audiences anticipate a resolution to the story. Once the story concludes, it is important that the characters, scenes and result are different from where they all began. Audiences have to feel that something has changed from beginning to end, able to feel the journey from start to finish.
While there are endless forms of content and storytelling out there across the wide web, these are just a few of the ways that we continue to create fresh, engaging content for our clients and their audiences.