What Makes a Story Work

Superheroes Listening to a Story

The very best content is that which leaves us feeling like the hero.

Think about the movies you love. Think about the songs you replay over and over. Think about the books you read. When we participate in stories, the ones that move us the most are those where we see a bit of ourselves in the storyline, right?

It’s not always easy, especially when you’re creating media for a corporation, but there are some guidelines you might consider when you think about building your media, be it a podcast, a video, a blog post, an ebook, a book, or whatever.

How to Make Your Audience Feel Like a Superhero

  • Let them feel smart and included. Stories where we are introduced as “part of the group” or “in the know” help us get over our initial discomfort.
  • Give them a solid map. The only time readers shouldn’t know where they’re going is if they’re reading a mystery (or a Chuck Palahniuk novel). The rest of the time, start people off with a sense of where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and tips on how they’ll know they’re done.
  • Reward them. If you’re producing material that’s longer in form, give your audience some kind of reward. This might be a checklist that lets them run off and do something with their partial knowledge. It might be some kind of acknowledgment that they’ve reached a next step. Whatever the case, if you’re challenging your readers, reward them. (Works in video games; works in other media.)
  • Respect their time. Brevity, friends. I point it out all the time. If you can say something with fewer words, do it. Okay?
  • Write about them, not you. Or, if you have to write about you (memoirs or biographies come to mind), give them something they can do to make meaning of what you’ve shared. One reason I loved WINNING by Jack Welch was that I felt I could use the stories as a better perspective of how corporations work. Make sure your media empowers your audience instead of toots your own horn. It’s how you make superheroes.

Storytelling has much more to it than this, but I’m going to respect your time and let you decide what you think of the above. Do you see how this might improve how your community will react to your stories?

What’s your take?

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