What Is Storytelling?

Decode the origins and foundation of human storytelling to better understand the principles that create lasting and impressionable stories. Exploring frameworks such as Pixar’s approach and the Hero’s Journey as well as different types of story arch that can be used across media.

Storytelling isn’t just a way to connect, when it comes to marketing and communications, it’s a vehicle to inspire change, to help people make choices that make a difference in their lives – both big and small.

What is it that we want to achieve?
How can we help people make decisions?
What is our role in their life?

These are the existential questions marketers and communicators sit with day to day as they try to realize their purpose and business goals. At the root and foundation of these questions is the role of stories and narrative. From Homer’s Iliad to the latest Pixar film or Netflix release, the story structures we are exposed to in these media and much more are timeless. Below are the examples we can use to help us first, deconstruct existing stories to understand their mechanisms and later how to construct your own, moving and inspiring stories.

Pixar

Has developed a world class process and system of storytelling structure that consistently builds compelling stories time and time again. They recognize that everything in life is storytelling and often they are quite simple in their essence. There’s no need to over complicate storytelling structures, a straightforwardness combined with bringing these stories to life through exceptional art, design, sound and quality is the difference maker.

Have a read through this for a summary on the rules of storytelling from Pixar.

A Hero’s Journey

The Heroes a classic structure to mythology that when deconstructed helps people understand how stories are made and last. It allows you to understand that every story you create has to due with a hero overcoming a challenge. Take the Titanic or Avatar for example, entering around a hero, with a challenge, they embark on alone, but find support, help, resources along the way, but it’s never straight forward, and they change as a person – sometimes the story ends with tragedy or inspiration, but the journey arc is similar.

To deep dive on the Hero’s Journey, head over to Wikipedia.

Storyboarding

Have you ever noticed the success of comics and graphic novels lies in the space it creates for the reader or views imagination? This is because the medium leverages storyboards as a means for communication – rough outlines, frameworks, with just enough detail for you to understand what is happening but with enough space for you to let your imagination, creativity and hopes to fill in the rest of the story. This is an essential part of storytelling and narrative development, people wish to be included in the story, connect to it, empathize with it. But we can’t over prescribe it.

This TED Talk with Scott Macleod outlines the importance of comics in everyday life.

Explore Further

Jasmine Bina is a Brand Strategist and Write and a refreshing voice around brands, storytelling, narrative, language, identity and more. Start with her “Business of Storytelling” piece first and then explore her collection on Medium further if inspired.