The Power of Storytelling

By Ted Hewett, Culture Consultant at Totem

For the longest time, I’ve been completely obsessed with stories. I love telling them, hearing them, reading them, watching them… They seem to be the top mechanism for conveying any type of media I consume.

This is especially true of video content. I’ve been dabbling in making videos for a while, and every time I make a new one I have to ask the question “does it tell a story”? It could be a beautifully edited, gorgeously lit piece of art, but if the story ain’t there, it just doesn’t work (just look up Disney’s “John Carter” movie to see what a lack of story brings to the silver screen).

I’ve been pondering lately about how we can leverage the power of storytelling in our day to day lives – whether it’s in how we communicate with others, or simply how we line up our thoughts and arrange ideas together. And then it hit me…

…structure.

Ok, this sounds a bit obvious. However, whenever we tell any story, there needs to be some kind of underlying framework and, ultimately, some kind of conclusion.

I remember seeing a talk from Dan Harmon (Rick and Morty, Community) and his idea about the Story Circle (an adapted version of the Hero’s Journey), and it just made so much sense to me! It’s in diagram form below, but if you think about the last film you saw, this will apply in some form or another:

Now, it doesn’t have to be some kind of epic tale for this type of thinking to be useful. Having a structure like this underpin something like a tweet or a piece of content that you’re sharing with your team can mean the difference between it being absorbed or not.

(I mean, it worked for Star Wars and Queer Eye so he must be on to something!)

Every time I make a new video I have to ask the question “does it tell a story”? It could be a beautifully edited, gorgeously lit piece of art, but if the story ain’t there, it just doesn’t work.

– Ted Hewett

This lightbulb moment only really works in the context of a good idea. I’m pretty lucky as I find inspiration in tonnes of different places, and while I can’t conjure content out of thin air, I find that with a bit of time, patience and open-mindedness I can come up with a tale or two (more blogs on that soon to come – watch this space).

This is why structure is so important for me; it helps sift through the chaos of a good idea and lay it out for whoever it is you’re trying to communicate with. It helps capture their attention at a time when there is so much noise and choice, and make them come on the journey with you. And, through that journey, you bring them to the destination you desire.

I’d love to hear about your approaches and the formats or structures which you’ve found effective when storytelling. Pop me a mail HERE if you’ve got any ideas 😁

-Ted

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