Andrew Stanton, filmmaker for Disney·Pixar, gave an inspiring TED talk revealing the elements of a compelling story. He used examples from his own films, as well as other Disney works, to exemplify how he and his teams apply that knowledge.
Although I am not a filmmaker or film buff, I love experiencing great stories and have an admiration for filmmakers’ creativity. I noticed that the same elements of engaging storytelling can be found in any type of story–whether it’s straight from one’s imagination (like Stanton’s films) or is an event happening in the real world (like news articles or press releases).
My favorite aspect of storytelling is that every little detail has a strategic purpose, and it’s so much fun figuring out exactly what it all means. In his talk, Stanton explained that audiences enjoy putting the pieces together themselves when watching a film. It makes the story’s resolution more rewarding!
Similarly, every single world and every single sentence in your press release, news article, blog post, etc. should have a purpose. How does that paragraph or blurb move your story forward? How does it fit in the bigger puzzle when your readers put it together? If it doesn’t, then rewrite.
Above all, the concept that stood out the most is how much Stanton stressed connecting the story to your audience. Initially, film characters are strangers. So, why should anyone care what happens to them or what they learn? That is part of the storyteller’s job: to give audiences a reason to care.
While he talked, Stanton echoed, “Make me care. Make me care.”
In communications, isn’t that entirely what our job is? To make audiences care using crafted communication and compelling stories?
From this short talk, I have certainly learned a few new ways to craft a story readers will care about. Not to mention, it’s pretty cool knowing that I, an aspiring comm pro, ask myself the same storytelling questions as the screenwriters for Disney!