Chasing the story

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m very much into storytelling, and almost as much into exploring how different media platforms can be utilized to create projects, story worlds and campaigns where the different parts build on each other, offering a total that is greater than the sum of its parts. Furthermore, how can the interactive nature of many of these platforms be harnessed in the best possible way, to achieve engagement and foster loyalty? And how do we harness this engagement in the long run – how do we grow our long tail to be as long as possible?

These are questions and challenges that differ from one project to the next, from one client to the next, from one target group to the next and from one story to the next.

For me though, it all starts with the story. What is the story we want to tell? What is the story world it is founded in? What are its siblings in the story-verse?

Having been involved in quite a few storytelling ventures, and having over the past few years consulted or evaluated a fairly great number of projects in the multiplatform / transmedia sphere, this is where a lot of them go wrong. Perhaps not totally, 100% wrong, but wrong enough that it matters and severely affects the end result.

This goes for industry clients, who have a difficult time identifying what the real story behind their product, service or innovation is. It goes for documentary filmmakers, who fail to see what stories align naturally with their original story from the film. And it goes for many other producers and creators, who fail in taking a step back and viewing their project from a further distance, seeing the limitations of the story they are currently promoting and working on, while another, adjacent story, would offer bigger, better and bolder opportunities.

So, how can we chase our story more efficiently? Here are three tools for anyone to use, that might put you on the right track – the only thing you need is a willingness to challenge your story as it stands today:

1. Use an audience. You have people around you, whether it is colleagues, partners, family, friends or someone else. Use them as a platform to get some distance to the story you’re trying to tell. Do like this: identify the core issues in the story you’re telling. Formulate them into a three-sentence description – i.e. “The countryside is slowly being depopulated. It’s an accelerating movement and there’s not much anyone is trying to do about it. The people living there have almost given up.”. Then ask your audience what questions or thoughts pop up in their minds. Mirror that against your current narrative and see how well you address those thoughts or answer those questions, and see if there are adjacent stories to your current narrative that would do that better.
2. Use the Internet. We have finally got access to the combined intelligence, knowledge and wisdom of the entire human race, from the ancient Greeks to the intellectuals of today. There is absolutely no need not to take advantage of this. In order not to drown in information though, searches and hashtags should be carefully selected; it is worth it to take a day or two to sift through information related to search terms, just to be able to find the ones that fit your needs best.
3. Use yourself. The most accessible way of doing this is to create a pitch for your project. Write down the elevator pitch of the story you’re writing. Rehearse it, and pitch it in front of a camera. Take a break, have a coffee, and then come back and watch the pitch you just made. If in doubt, have someone else watch it and give a verdict. Your approach should be – would I want to invest 100k in this person’s story? If not – why not? Rinse and repeat.

There are as many unique stories as there are people on this Earth, and probably quite a few more as well. There is therefore no need to settle for a story that doesn’t fit your needs exactly – all you need is to chase it down, pin it down and tell it!

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