3 Easy Steps to Master Video Storytelling

3 Easy Steps to Master Video Storytelling

13min read  

3 Sep 2019

Video content is tall in the saddle now, especially video storytelling.

2019 is the year when every Tom, Dick, and Harry hold it their duty to create videos for business and life. And they are right: visual learners with short attention span, most people prefer communicating via images and emotions, not words. Brands and content makers understand that, investing tons of time and money in a video.

That's all very fine, but here's the catch:

How to make sure you create video content that stands out from the crowd and makes the audience crave for more? How to make people like and, what's more important, remember your videos in the pandemonium of YouTubers and advertisers competing for subscribers, attention, and sales?

Simple as that: master video storytelling.

Story is the only way to make people want to listen to you. Stories affect the human brain, building a personal connection and triggering an emotional response from the audience.

video storytelling

Source: onespot.com

That's all very fine too, but how to create videos that would tell a story everyone remembers and shares over and over again?

Take these three steps:


  1. Know the Basics


People have been using storytelling since the beginning of time. Just think of pictures on cave walls or verbal stories from Testament: they've survived through centuries, and we still retell them and emphasize on them.

Modern storytelling is books, movies, and online content of all forms but with the same features, regardless of a genre:

  • introduction
  • protagonist
  • conflict
  • catharsis
  • resolution

This is a classic narrative structure we all are attuned to,—known as a hero's journey— but alternative storytelling techniques work too to cause a wow-effect and make the audience remember and speak of your content.

The example of classic narratives: Harry Potter.


The example of alternative storytelling: Game of Thrones.


The wow-effect of Ned Stark's death in the first season influenced the destiny of the series. Without this twist in the plot, Game of Thrones would be a predictable story about the Starks and their adventures. In other words, it would become a classic hero's journey, like in Harry Potter:

digital storytelling

Source: jeffbullas.com

That's not all bad, just a fact.

Make sure to include all core elements of a story in your videos to influence human perception and trigger a response. Appeal to basic instincts and emotions (fear, anger, pity, and surprise) to make your videos memorable.

Nike nailed it with their video storytelling.

Their video stories aren't about selling sports shoes. They don't even mention their brand name in commercials. They tell stories of real people, heroes who want to change their lives; so they take that call to adventure, deal with all doubts and fears on their way, and return with a reward.

It’s a hero's journey, touching and appealing to our feelings. Nike's videos are about their global mission, resonating with the audience. The power of video storytelling in its pure form.


  1. Forget About Words


Video storytelling is about pictures, not words. Given that over half of the videos are watched on mobile devices with no sounds, you need to master visual elements of your stories to make the audience resonate on them.

It's that very case when the "show, don't tell" principle works best, especially if you create 7-seconds Vine or 15-seconds Instagram videos with no time for blah-blah-blah.

There's no need to go far:

  • Charlie Chaplin's movies with no dialogues.
  • Video ads of brands like GoPro, Apple, before-mentioned Nike, and others.
  • And even Stephen King's #1 tip on writing:

visual storytelling

"For example, in a book I'm working right now, there's a spooky monster. And instead of describing it, I drew it."


Okay, this principle is more difficult to apply to text storytelling, but you've got the idea.

If no words are needed for you to create a video masterpiece, then what are your instruments here?


Create the Right Mood with Colors

As a video maker, you've heard of color theory. Right colors make videos more appealing, create the mood, and communicate a message to the audience. Wrong colors make videos confusing and hard to understand, convey a false message, and influence your personal brand negatively.

That's why brands turn to color psychology when building their presence and positioning, differentiating themselves from competitors. Colors help to reflect a brand message, tone of voice, and mission.

In movies, color sets a tone even if actors don't say a word:

brand storytelling

Source: digitalsynopsis.com

It influences the moods of the audience and helps to form a certain attitude towards a schene. So pay attention to colors, filters, and overall environment you use in videos: these are among details allowing you to create contexts and explain conflicts of your story.


Context - the Conflict of your Story

Fonts, music, background details—all they help to communicate the conflict of your story. It's a driving force:

No storytelling exists without this element.

A conflict should be present in every video. It happens when a protagonist (not necessarily a person) needs something (not necessarily an object) and must overcome challenges and fight for it.

Let's take the best-selling video from Volvo. What makes it so viral?

Jean-Claude Van Damme? Maybe.

Do colors and the right background music help to communicate the mood and boost audience engagement? Probably.

But what about a kinda original manner they choose to demonstrate the benefits of their product? Here goes a conflict: when we realize what's going on in the video, the only question encourages us to watch it till the end:

Will those trucks tear Van Damme apart? (Sad, but let's face it: most of the audience were curious whether he hurts or not.

It was the conflict, and it sparked our interest.

Together with focus, moves, and resolution, it makes up the composition of this video—another element to consider for stellar video storytelling.


Composition and the Key Elements

Given that our attention span is short and our brain is lazy to receive and analyze tons of information it faces every second, you need to compose videos so they would make it clear for the audience where to focus.

In other words, structure them so we could understand its key elements:

  • Master the rule of thirds.
  • Make videos short, especially if you create them for Facebook and Instagram: according to the research from BuzzSumo, users prefer watching vertical videos of 2-4 minutes.
  • Add action: your story needs a timeline aka a story act, showing the audience a sense of moving from A to B.

Movement equals conflict in storytelling. (Why do you think some talk videos are boring?) Also, make sure the composition of your story has a catharsis and a resolution: what will the audience learn from your video; why should they watch it till the end?


Follow the rule: one video, one message.


  1. Upset Their Routine


When people open YouTube or social media, 99% of them don't know what they want to find there. They just want to relax and spend time reading or watching something interesting.

The problem is, "something interesting" is a too abstract idea.

We see tons of video content online but remember the one reflecting our emotions at that very moment when we watch it. Emotions drive our perception and decision-making. To trigger them, be creative and experiment with video formats and elements.

What can help you hook the audience?

  • Combine incompatible details to cause a wow-effect for more memorable videos. Examples: a purple cow of Milka, a big stage as a town in the Dogville movie, Volkswagen's alien, or a panda following you everywhere if you don't eat cheese.
  • Consider a pendulum action: upset the audience routine first, and then bring their balance back. Examples: a micro mac from McDonald's, The Truman Show movie, or a video promo of Carrie.
  • Build narratives around the audience "pain points." It will encourage them to watch closely in the hope of your video will teach them what to do to solve the problem. Justify their expectations.

Long story short, don't be predictable.

Engage, add the element of surprise, consider metaphors and open endings, but remember: the audience will like and respond to your work only if they recognize the emotion you intended to cause with your story.


Wrapping Up

Everyone has a story. When sharing yours through videos, consider the storytelling basics and the element of surprise: combined and represented creatively, they'll appeal to the audience of all ages. Video storytelling is about emotions and personal stories. People respond to stories, recognizing own fears and pains in them. Engage them with exciting video content—and you'll steal the way to their hearts.

Lesley Vos is a web writer and content strategist from Chicago. Currently writing for Bid4Papers, she also contributes content for many publications on digital marketing, SEO copywriting, and social media.

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