Several years ago, getting your story out there took a long time—and a bucket load of money. Thanks to the digital age, however, you can now share your story with millions of people across the globe with just a few taps.
But while the internet has opened numerous avenues for storytelling, it also brought about an inevitable problem for storytellers: the multiplicity of stories. Nowadays, you can find all sorts of stories, whether they’re told by filmmakers, journalists, or regular people who just love sharing their thoughts.
So, in a sea of stories, how do you make yours stand out? Over the years, we’ve found that compelling stories possess certain elements that never fail to arrest anyone’s hearts. Read on to find out what made it into the list.
It shouldn’t be any surprise (pun intended) why people love thrillers and crime TV shows like How to Get Away with Murder and the Law & Order franchise. After all, people love getting caught off guard, and stories like these are pretty good at showing them exactly that.
Admit it, we’re all tired of plots that have the same beginning and familiar ending. These days, we’re all about the unexpected. We want stories that we haven’t seen or heard before, with twists and turns that get us at the edge of our seats. These are the ones that get carved into our brains. Needless to say, they’re the ones that make conversations happen.
Going by this logic, you would surely want to add an element of surprise to your stories if your goal is for them to have a lasting effect on your audience. It doesn’t have to be monumental or panic-inducing (like the ones that happen in the shows we mentioned earlier). It just has to break away from the usual.
For example, “Boy meets girl. Boy and girl overcome conflicts. Boy marries girl,” isn’t a story that’s one for the books. However, “Boy meets girl. Boy and girl overcome conflicts. Boy proposes to girl, but girl doesn’t love boy anymore,” is a plot that has the potential to make it to the headlines.
Look, we won’t stop you if you want to come up with a story based on the British royal family. In fact, we think their story is so great and fascinating that people will love it. That said, not a lot of them would be able to relate to it.
Sure, you can come up with a story that packs a punch, but if it doesn’t touch a chord with your audience, it might just lose its essence after a few days.
You want a story that is relatable, so much that people go back to it when they need to feel inspired, validated, or just better in general. You want a story that matters to them on a daily basis.
You may try to draw from the experience of someone you know. It could be your dad, your mom, your friend, your colleague, or the person you always sit right next to on your way home. Learn more about their typical day-to-day.
Once you get to know them on a deeper level, you’ll have some material to start with. Develop that and make it compelling.
The dialogues in your story will reveal a lot about your characters’ thoughts and feelings, and the things they will say are an indirect way of communicating to your audience your core message. Remember that the conversations that your characters make convey the lived experiences of real people.
When crafting your dialogue for your story, you want to make it realistic and natural. Use language that fits not only the characters’ personas but the setting of your story. Let’s say that you are writing a story that dates back to the 90s and 80s. In that case, you could use expressions that are popular during that time.
Doing so will allow you to establish the world that you are building and the reality you are portraying.
Being able to evoke the right emotions for every scene in your story is what will compel your audience to remain invested. No matter how good you are at incorporating an element of surprise all over the story, if it can’t capture emotions, people are most likely to drop it whether their questions were answered or not. It is by seizing emotions that will make your audience highly engaged
Capturing emotions is pretty simple and straightforward. You just need to tap into the intrinsic desires of humans. Themes like romance, career, family, and life and death are usually the ones that hit close to home. You can weave these topics together to come up with a beautiful story.
For example, you can have your main character choose between romance and career. This plot is nothing new, but there are so many emotions that could be unpacked in it, just play with your imagination.
For your story to be completely relatable, you’d also want to put specific details in it as much as possible. What’s your main character like? What’s the color of their hair? How old are they? What do they usually eat for lunch? How do they display feelings of fear, anger, sadness, or excitement?
You might be wondering why it’s so crucial for storytellers to be as vivid as possible. For starters, a detailed story paints a better picture of the events that transpired. It transports the audience to a place they weren’t in, as if they’re experiencing your story firsthand.
Highlighting specific details also intensifies your narrative. By using descriptive language, your audience is able to imagine exactly how your characters feel about a specific situation. You can use your sense of sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste to help your audience envision the whole story.
There are many storytellers in the world, but there are only a few who can do it well. Nonetheless, with just the right mix of these story elements and the right amount of practice, you can make your story stand out from the rest.
Interested in bringing your storytelling techniques to the next level? Check out our website for coaching, workshops, and free resources.