People have shared stories for centuries. In fact, before writing was commonly used, stories are what civilizations relied on to communicate important lessons to following generations. Stories weren’t just for entertainment; they were a matter of survival.

In today’s world stories are still important. While we don’t necessarily need to learn how to “kill elk” for dinner, we still need storytelling to share valuable lessons. When you are the storyteller, you want to create dialogue that is compelling and interesting.

So why are some stories so compelling? Why do some stand out when we hear hundreds of stories every week? In all the video marketing, vlogging, transmedia storytelling that we are exposed to day in and day out, what are the defining factors of truly engaging video story? There is an art to storytelling, but is there a formula to create a great storytelling video?

In this post, I am going to lead you through 11 storytelling elements that make your story stand out, whether your intention is to sell, entertain, or provide information to your viewers.

  1. Setting the stage.

In journalism, the setting of a story usually adds up to the “5 Ws”, who, what, where, why and when. Regardless of the story you’re telling, you need context to set the stage. If your video involves a customer, then you should look at the following:

  • Who is your customer?
  • What does your customer do?
  • Where are they located?
  • When is the story happening?
  • Why is the story happening?

For your video to be successful, it has to grab your viewers’ attention. If you plan on touching the internet market at all, this is critical to success. Because of this when you create your setting, be creative and do your best to spark curiosity in viewers.

  1. The protagonist.

The protagonist is your hero. Think of Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker or Jason Bourne—each one is the hero of the story who goes through unsurmountable odds. In each case, they were the focal point of the entire story, or series of stories. They all are relatable and interesting. You want to know what happens to them and during their story, you root for them.

Remember how having a good protagonist makes you feel and use that when you’re creating video. If you focus on the company, viewers will become bored because there is nothing personally relatable about it.

Always consider that people think about themselves first and foremost. Because of this make your customer the protagonist. Of course this means you have done your research and know who your customer is, but if you do, use that in your video. Tell the story of your customer.

  1. The point.

The key to a story that is poignant and relevant is creating the protagonist and then giving him a meaningful goal. This goal is the framework of how the story plays out. If the protagonist doesn’t desperately want something that means they are totally satisfied, so what is the point of telling their story?

When you are creating your video ask yourself: What is my protagonist’s goal? What is he/she looking for? What is the end goal?

  1. The challenge.

In every story there also is a villain. The villain is the force against the hero who makes his or her life difficult.  He is the roadblock they face. In your video, your roadblock is going to be the problem your product solves—which might be a squeaky door, a flat tire or a keyboard missing keys.

  1. The central conflict.

The central conflict is what makes your video story interesting. This is where the protagonist reaches the roadblock and meets the villain. Your conflict is going to be the actual struggle your hero goes through, or what your customer goes through, as they move towards the goal.

The space between your hero and their goal is the dramatic tension of the story. This is the suspenseful spot that captivates the viewer and makes them want to stick it out and find out what happens. It’s the drama created within the story. If you are doubting the power of drama and its ability to captivate audience, just think of the number of reality shows on television today. How many of the top ones would even be heard of if you took all the drama out?

  1. The teacher.

So your story has the hero, the villain, the goal and the drama…what’s next? Next is what spurs the hero to overcome: the teacher. This wise character is there to help the hero reach the goal. Recall making the customer the protagonist? The reason for this is because you want your viewers to identify with the main character of your story. This is what draws them in and creates an emotional tie to the story.

When your teacher reaches the hero, your potential customers realize that they need you. They understand that the hero is struggling with exactly what they are struggling with. The hero goes through the same things. The hero has the same roadblocks and villains. If the hero of the story met the teacher, then they can benefit from listening to how he overcomes.

This is where things “click” for the viewer. They make the connection between why they need your solution to overcome.

  1. A token.

In some way or another the teacher also helps the hero by giving him or her some token to help them carry on. It may be a secret, or a method or a physical object, but its power gives the hero the ability to call upon strength to overcome. In the case of your video, this could be the product or service you are showcasing.

  1. The Before-State.

The before-state is the part of the story leading up to meeting the teacher. Everything that happens prior to that critical moment is before. This is how the hero was living without the solution. This is where you portray their pain, struggle or deficit. Make sure that your video shows what the customer is missing by not having this product.

  1. The After-State.

The after-state is the part of the story after the hero gets to his or her goal. This is where in your video you can showcase your product or service’s benefits. Juxtapose the two differing states to convey how important the product is.  When you view customer testimonials, you’ll likely see the following:

  • The customer describes the pain, struggle or deficit they are experiencing
  • They discuss using the product they found or were given
  • They share how satisfied and happy they are not that they have the solution

The storytelling arc is a combination of the before-state and the after-state.

  1. The emotions.

In your video you want to incite emotion during both the before- and after-state. People love stories that make them feel, so use your video to do just that. In your video you’ll emphasize pain, struggle and deficits but you’ll also emphasize solutions, goals and happiness post-drama.  Be sure that your video can evoke the right emotions. Telling an emotional story will make your videos more poignant, and it also will encourage your viewers to re-post them. This is what viral videos are all about.

  1. The moral of the story.

In the end, every story always sums up the story to the moral. This is the entire purpose of the adventure. In marketing-talk the term is “call to action.” You want to have an ending call to action. “Buy here!” or “Click here for purchase” are both calls to action. This tells the viewer what steps to take to have the solution they just watched the hero reach.  Your moral likely will be to get viewers to purchase, but there is more to the story. Rather than just being superficial, think bigger. One video campaign that was able to do this is Chipolte. If you recall, they put out a short video called “The Scarecrow” a few years ago. They could have ended it with just “Buy Chipolte Now” but they didn’t. Rather, they ended their story with “Cultivate a Better World.” They opted to not just push the product, but rather push the bigger message behind the product- to make the world better. That’s the kind of “big think” that can set your video apart from the others videos people watch.

Share Your Video Stories

Everyone has the ability to tell stories…ninety-year olds and three-year olds. Stories convey important messages. If you are looking to use video to tell yours, then follow these 11 tips for success. You’ll be sharing fantastic quality videos in no time at all:

  1. Setting the stage.
  2. The protagonist.
  3. The point.
  4. The challenge.
  5. The central conflict.
  6. The teacher.
  7. A token.
  8. The Before-State.
  9. The After-State.
  10. The emotions.
  11. The moral of the story.