Elements of Great Storytelling

“Great stories share a few key characteristics”

While we know that storytelling isn’t new, using it strategically isn’t necessarily something we consider in our engagement efforts.

Even if we’re not consciously telling a story—one that’s well-crafted and propels our mission forward—we’re still telling a story. And more often than not, because of the busy day-to-day that we encounter in today’s landscape, that story isn’t strategic, but rather, disjointed, confusing, and inconsistent.

But when we do consciously tell a well-crafted story, the benefits are immense: increased engagement with stakeholders, funders, supporters, and community members; increased publicity and visibility; increased exposure and connection with causes, and more.

And whether we’re a filmmaker or communications professional at a large nonprofit, great stories share a few key characteristics:

There is a moral or underlying message.
What message are you trying to convey? Once that’s decided, this message helps to provide a focus for your story.

There are characters and these characters are compelling.
The best stories are powered by characters that we care about. That’s not to say that we like these characters, but we do become invested in what happens to them. Think about the characters in your overall story – the various stakeholders and beyond – that are involved in your work. How can you bring them into your story?

Something happens.
We often like to explain something versus show action. My high school writing teacher, always reminded me, “show, not tell.” You show action through a plot that moves forwards and prompts audiences to continuously wonder, what happens next?

This something involves conflict
What is the problem? Something that your characters have to solve, overcome, change? It’s conflict that drives action.

It evokes emotion.
You can decide the types of emotions you hope to elicit – be it anger, compassion, or empathy. As a result, audiences often tap into their own personal experiences and feel more connected to your story.

Bottom line: great stories keep our attention. The message, compelling characters, forward-moving action, and conflict, work together to craft a story that is memorable and helps to connect audiences, communities, and stakeholders to our mission.

-felicia pride, chief content officer, pride collaborative

(*This post originally appeared at: http://namac.org/idea-exchange/arts-engage-storytelling-for-impact-pride-collaborative)

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