Stories are everywhere, but only a few of them are truly great.
These stories have lasting effects on us. Think of Alex Honnold in the movie Free Solo, chasing his dream to be the first person to climb El Capitan without any assistance or safety gear. Think of Harry Potter battling Lord Voldemort to determine the future of the wizarding world. Think of Offred trying to escape the confines of Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale. They’re stories that we love to consume, but what makes them so great?
Let’s discuss five of the elements that make a story great.
Think of stories that captured your attention in the past. They weren’t all easy-going, and people weren’t happy the entire time. If everything went according to plan, we’d all die from boredom.
You need suspense to turn a good story into a great story. Suspense is the feeling of tension inside you when a character faces some sort of uncertainty.
Suspense motivates the audience to pay attention. With enough tension in a story, they’ll be asking, “What happens next?” Tension makes your story a page-turner instead of a snooze.
If you hear the same kinds of stories over and over again, they’re not going to affect you as intended. We get bored when a story isn’t novel. We know what to expect, so our minds wander to something else.
Originality comes from doing something that’s never been done before: introducing new types of compelling characters, or placing a story in a unique setting. Star Wars was loaded with novelty, for example — its characters and settings were completely original creations that amused the audience.
You should pepper your story with unique ideas that entertain the audience. You want to provide something new and compelling that the audience doesn’t see or read every day. But walk this line carefully: telling a story that is too outlandish may turn the audience off.
You might have the most exciting brand story in the world, but if no one can relate to it, your story is going to come across more like a technical manual than as appealing marketing. The harder it is to relate to the main character, the less likely we are to care about the story.
That’s why relatability is super important to add to a story. A brand story needs to be relevant to have its intended effect. Include the prospective customer’s values, beliefs, or struggles in the story. Otherwise the audience won’t be able to connect, and that connection is essential.
You’re more likely to finish the entire story or even share it with others if it somehow relates to you it. Whether you see yourself in a character or personally understand a particular character’s challenge, the story becomes more personal.
Create a relatable story by understanding your audience. You can achieve this by creating buyer personas for your customers. These include demographics like age, location, marital status, and education. They provide insights into people’s buying habits, like where they shop and which websites they visit. You can also account for customer roadblocks, objectives, and core traits in your personas.
Use our cheat sheet to create your company’s buyer personas.
Once you’ve identified these people, you can more easily tailor your story’s message.
There’s nothing so enjoyable as reading an easy-to-read story. The most popular stories are actually written at or below a ninth-grade reading level. They use shorter sentences and paragraphs no longer than three or four sentences each. If you complicate your story with industry jargon or long sentences, you’ll defeat your reader.
If you want your audience to keep reading, make the content easy for them to digest. Make the progression from one event to the next simple. Tell things in chronological order. Use words and phrases that your audience understands. The easier a story is to read, the more the reader can focus on the big picture instead of the individual words.
When you do this, your audience will be more likely to read and digest your story instead of skimming it or skipping it entirely.
The strongest element you can use in a story is emotion. It’s creates a bond with the reader. Emotions have a lasting effect because they’re more memorable than facts or numbers — they “improve recall of experiences that have importance or relevance for our survival.”
If brands want to be remembered, then integrating emotion in their stories will be crucial. Let’s use The Lord of the Rings as an example. The setting and characters fascinated audiences, but what really got them dialed in was the emotions of the characters. Frodo’s determination, Samwise’s companionship, and Aragorn’s bravery are among the most noteworthy mentions. Emotion is so powerful because it joins the reader to the story.
You can create emotion in your brand story in different ways. If the reader shares emotions with a character, they’ll often place themselves in the story. This is when the story transitions from something they’re reading to something they’re feeling. You can also create emotion with locations or events that elicit specific feelings.
You don’t want to tell the reader how they should feel. Let them feel it on their own.
These five elements aren’t limited to books or movies. You should also include them in the brand story that defines your company: a combination of your vision, mission, and core values. But it’s also the journey of how you got there, describing the challenges and triumphs along the way.
If your brand story doesn’t contain these elements, then you’ll be stuck at good instead of great.