The 6 Crucial Components of Great Storytelling

Traditional marketing and information sharing has faded as a go-to method for selling products and services. Recently, soft drink peddler Coca Cola revamped its corporate website to appear more like a news and entertainment source similar to the Huffington Post. What Coca Cola has learned is that people are tired of hearing about facts, benefits, and price points. Consumers need to become emotionally invested in a product or service because it matters to them.

So, we know that stories are quickly becoming drivers of business and marketing. What you might not know is how to tell great stories that generate a loyal fan base. Again, it’s about more than sharing information and offering benefits. For instance a facts-based piece on how your vegan diet will help people lose weight is informative. But is it as compelling as a story about a mother of three young boys who struggled with weight loss and was ready to give up, but stumbled across a vegan recipe book that you wrote and is now shedding pounds like crazy?

Which story do you think will capture a reader’s attention from start to finish? Sure, some people just want the facts and that’s fine. In my experience, fact collectors do not a loyal fan base make. However, people who crave stories will return to your blog again and again and again because it is as entertaining as it is informative. As Mary Poppins says, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” In the example above, the vegan diet book is your medicine—it’s the thing you’re trying to sell—and the story is the sugar.

What are the components of a good story that make it engaging and interesting? Here are the top six elements that you need to incorporate into any blog post or article you write. And so you know I’m not feeding you baseless nonsense, you should know that every great story ever told relies on them.

1. The Premise. Before you begin any great story it’s important to have an understand of the message—or main theme—you’re trying to convey. Otherwise you’ll ramble and lose a reader’s attention. For example, a central theme of Moby Dick is defiance against authority. Throughout the story, Captain Ahab relentlessly pursues the white whale—which to him, represents authority. This theme provides a solid foundation on which the rest of the novel is written.
While you might not deal with such a heavy topic, you need to first determine your central premise so your story remains grounded and focused. What is the main point you want your reader to get out of your story? That’s your premise.

2. The Protagonist. I recently watched Man of Steel, the most current adaptation of the Superman mythology. Clark Kent/Superman represents the penultimate protagonist. His entire life is based around helping others and saving lives. However, the interesting thing about this particular iteration is the back-story, in which a young Clark Kent must overcome significant struggle before he truly finds his wings—or cape, as the case may be.
Your protagonist is the hero of the story. Like the mother of three who is finally able to lose weight with your vegan diet book, you need a central character that your reader can invest in.
Before you write a single word, visualize what your protagonist looks like. What does she do for a living? Why should your reader even care about her? In most cases your protagonist should take the very form of the person reading your story.

3. The Antagonist. In Man of Steel, General Zod represents the primary antagonist—or the bad guy. He is the roadblock that Superman must overcome in order to save the people he loves.

The-Antagonist-EVERY-HERO-NEEDS-A-CHALLENGE Unless you’re writing about superheroes, it’s unlikely that your antagonist will take the form of a super villain in human form. Instead, your villain might be “lack of time for exercise” or “cravings.” The main role of the antagonist is to get in the way of the protagonist.

4. The Conflict. This is where things get interesting and you begin to build the drama of your story. Now that you have a protagonist and an antagonist there will inevitably be a major conflict to overcome. In Jurassic Park, the primary goal of the protagonists is to evade the deadly dinosaurs and escape the island.

Your conflict might include your hero’s struggle with weight loss. You might show how she tried Weight Watchers or Atkins only to gain even more weight than she carried before she started. It’s the point in which your hero beings to lose hope. It’s also the point in the story when your reader invests herself fully and begins to root for your hero.

5. The Arch. Now it’s time to set the stage for significant change. In some stories this is when your hero hits rock bottom and finally realizes that he must do something differently in order to overcome the antagonist. In Gone With the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara nearly loses everything and is forced to deepen her resolve, and put her own hands into the soil to save the day.
In the case of the now-vegan mom, she had to get to struggle through diet after diet to find a protocol that worked for her.

save-the-day6. The Resolution. Finally, you must present a satisfying resolution to conclude the story. Superman saves the world. Alan and Ellie get off the island. Scarlett saves the plantation.
This is when you reveal the big “how-to” moment in your story. After struggling with her weight for years, the mother of three finally achieved success with your vegan diet. Cue dramatic final score, smiles, feel-good moments, and monumental vegan diet book sales.

The primary goal behind framing your story with these six elements is to create an emotional connection with your reader. When your reader is emotionally connected she is far more likely to click on your next blog post. And eventually, if your ultimate goal is to sell a product or service, she will become your customer.

What story will you write next?

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