We are visual storytellers. All of us. It’s how we communicate, it’s how we engage, it’s how we consume. Visual stories.
As vloggers, video marketers, content creators or whatever fancy name you have given yourself, your job is to get your audience involved in the story you are telling.
All stories have a structure and it’s important to understand that structure, before you start your story. It’s rather simple, really. It’s three basic elements, which we’ll break down to help ou better understand what that looks like from an applicable standpoint.
The basic story structure looks like this:
Casey Neistat breaks it down to a story we all know and recognize:
“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water…” – Beginning
“Jack fell down and broke his crown…” – Middle
“And Jill came tumbling after.” – End
If you put it in context’s you know and understand, it makes building your own story much easier. Let’s dive in to the three acts of a story.
I. THE OPENING
The Beginning, The Setup, The Teaser, The Big Question, and a multitude of other storyteller descriptives. This is where you introduce the story, the setting, the characters, the idea of the story. The part where you, as the storyteller, are drawing in the viewer. You are drawing them in to the setting by showing what’s around your, the motions, the scenery, the people, what YOU the character are seeing. You want to the viewer to put themselves in the story and create the feeling of what it’s like to be in this story.
This is also where your viewers make the investment in to the character. Where they get to know you, or your main character, as the hero of the story. Set us up for what this character has to do, accomplish, fix, travel, or in my recent video, who I had to propose to! The investment of character is the hook to the remainder of the story. If your viewer feels connected to the character, they are going to follow him or her through their journey of this story.
Here’s the trick to the opening, something we all fall victim to, at one point or another. While you’re setting us up for what is about to happen and while you are getting us invested in the character…
We have the tendency to over describe what is happening in the story we are telling. Don’t discrespect your audience by thinking that they can not put the pieces together. Cutting creates intrigue.
Imagination = Mystery = Shaping the story on our own. We want to invest ourselves in the story, to try and figure out what is going to happen, how it’s going to end. The more you share, the more we lose the element of myster and bore with what we are watching.
II. THE EXPERIENTIAL MOMENT
The middle, the conflict, the problem, the expereince that this story has been building up to. The grand reveal of waht this is all revolving around. Instead of investment of character, think of this as investment of the experience, or perhaps, return on the investment of the whole experience.
Think of this as the AHA moment. The moment in your vlog, or video, where you have taken the audience right where you want them to be. Your setup, your investment of character, your mysetery and putting us, the viewer, in your video have built up to this point.
In my most recent vlog, I shared the proposal to my girlfriend. I set you up with something big was about to happen, while I was on a bucket list brand trip. Then I took you along the journey of our trip, and got you invested in to myself and my girlfriend, along our drive. We arrived at our destination, I built up the scene by getting everything set up perfectly, and then bringing her in to the room I had prepared. Then I popped the big question. “Sam, will you marry me?”At that point, I cut to a video montage of a lot of the trips and memories we had created over the last two years, right before she answered my question. I did this because I wanted to pull the viewer through that moment with their anticipation, excitement of what’s about to happen, with the music, visual queue’s of the room, all while escalating your emotional investment. Then I cut back to the room, where she was about to answer the question, but kept the same music from the montage playing, to keep you emotionally invested in the moment.
You’ll have to watch the video to find out what she said!
THE IN-BETWEEN SPACES
The gold, the magic, the captivation of the story you are telling is found in the In-Between Spaces of the beginning, middle, and end. The setup, the inviting in, the invesment is made while shaping the story in between all the acts. Don’t forget to include those moments, very typical to the setup, they are the elements within the story that allow us the feeling that we are in this story with you.
III. THE RESOULTION
The end, the close, the final, the feel good moment, solution, the summary, or the happy ending.
In my final road trip vlog to Montata, last summer, we arrived at our destination, gave a quick summary of the most amazing trip of our lives and then ended it by showing all our favorite moments from that trip in a quick recap montage. If you happened to watch the vlogs leading up to that point, you would have recognized the scenes, as they all came from previous videos.
I knew before I shot the final road trip video how I was going to piece that one together. I was looking at the end while I was shooting all the other stories leading up to it. If possible, decide ahead of time how you will end your stories, or at least be thinking of an ending while you are shooting. If you take Glen Gary Glen Ross’ approach of ‘Always Be Closing, or ABC’ you will always find a way to bring it all together for the end of a great story.
IIIa. CALL TO ACTION
As the vlog boss says, “Factor in time for the close” in your formula. Will your close be happy? Keep them hanging in suspense? A surprise? Recall of what they just watched? How do you want your viewers to feel at the end of your video. Factor in some time to bring that emotion home.
If you are going for a sort of action to fulfill, then think about that action prior to shooting. If your video is for business purposes, this becomes really important, your call to action at the end, is the sole purpose of distributing this video. I have included a list of seven ways for you to end your videos, to help get you thinking:
- Close the story, increase brand awareness
- As a question to generate engagement
- Encourage audience to view testimonials from real users
- Send viewers to your website to check out new products or deals
- Send viewers to a landing page to perform an action for the purpose of Lead Generation
- Offer viewer specific discounts
- Direct them to view your BIG content pieces
To ‘close’, when you are thinking of building your stories, think of the stories you know and how they embody your story structure and think about how your story its in the structure of a well-known story. Like Humpty-Dumpty:
“Humpty-Dumpty sat on a wall…” – Beginning
“Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall…” – Middle
“All the kings men and all the kings horses…” – In-Between Spaces
“Couldn’t put Humpty-Dumpty back together again.” – End
It’s my hope that you will tell better stories to create bigger experiences.
What are some of your favorite stories?