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When it comes to YouTube video production, the first things that come to mind are probably technical considerations like choice of camera, microphone and video editing software. While these are extremely important to making a successful video, an often-overlooked aspect is the art of storytelling.
Whether you’re a travel vlogger documenting your far-flung journeys, an armchair historian covering WWII battles, or an artist who attempts to recreate famous works with crayons, learning how to tell a story will improve the quality of your videos.
In this blog, we’ll cover the six basic elements of a story and share storytelling tips that will help you keep your viewers hooked.
Incorporate the art of storytelling into your YouTube videos to hold your viewer’s attention.
Storytelling is the cultural act of sharing stories in order to entertain or educate. For as long as humans have gathered in one place, we’ve used storytelling as a means of preserving cultural or historical information, instilling moral values or passing the time in a fun and meaningful way.
While many think of storytelling as an oral tradition, it can be utilized to communicate a narrative in all forms of media, including YouTube videos. Great storytelling skills can help keep viewers interested and engaged in your videos.
Every good story shares the same basic elements. Exactly how these elements are treated and portrayed can unfold in an infinite number of ways, but the elements of a story can be boiled down to a few simple questions:
1. Who is the main character?
2. What is their goal?
3. What is standing in their way?
4. What are the consequences if they fail?
5. Do they succeed?
6. How is the character changed?
In your videos, who is your main character? If you’re filming a vlog about your own life, the main character is most likely yourself. But if you produce an educational video about the first President, the story centers on George Washington.
It’s important to clarify whom the central person is that the story revolves around. This gives your audience someone to identify with and root for, keeping them invested in what happens in your story.
Now you’ve identified a main character, but what do they want? What’s the main character’s goal?
Maybe you’re a fashion vlogger that wants to monetize your fashion tip videos. Maybe you’re a researcher that wants to find out what happens to a plasma TV in an oven. The main character’s goal becomes the primary vehicle for advancing the plot of a story.
What are the main obstacles preventing the main character from achieving their goal? If it’s too easy, it wouldn’t be very interesting—where’s the drama in that?
Where are you going to find a kitchen with an oven big enough to fit a plasma TV? How are you going to convince them to let you try something so crazy?
The obstacles standing in your main character’s way evoke an emotional response from your audience. Even if they can’t relate to your specific goals, everyone certainly knows what it’s like to face a daunting challenge.
But what happens if the main character doesn’t get what they want? Do you face professional failure or embarrassment? The higher the stakes, the more your audience will be invested in the outcome.
The main thing keeping your audience hooked is whether the character will succeed by the end of the story. Of equal interest is how the character overcomes obstacles. Do they reach their goal on their own, or does someone step in to help them?
How does the character evolve over the course of their journey? Are they challenged to become a better person? What lessons did they learn along the way?
Character growth is one of the most endearing aspects of a story. Keeping this in mind will help your audience reflect on their own lives while relating to main character.
Follow these storytelling tips to keep your audience engaged.
Beyond the basic elements of a story, there are additional storytelling techniques that will help keep your viewers engaged in your videos, no matter what the subject matter is.
Show a funny scene or blooper first, so the viewer wants to keep watching to find out what happened.
Draw attention to your video by piquing viewers’ interest with a unique title and thumbnail photo: “We Let The Cat Drive Our Tesla! (And The Cops Were Cool With It)”
You can quickly grab your audience’s attention by asking specific questions out loud. When you answer one of these questions, immediately raise another question so they don’t lose interest.
Use sensory details and metaphors to paint a vivid scene in your audience’s mind of what it feels like to be the main character. Don’t tell them—show them!
By varying the pace of your story, you can avoid becoming too predictable and increase the impact of events and revelations. Slowing down the pace at key moments can enhance the suspense, leaving your audience on the edge of their seats.
It’s not just about what happens in the story—it’s about HOW you tell the story. Be confident and charismatic with your delivery. If you let your personality shine through, your viewers are more likely to go along for the ride.