Keep it Simple in Storytelling

Spiderman is good storytellingWhen it comes to storytelling, there are piles of blogs, books, and slideshows giving all manner of conflicting advice. There are also numerous sources with various theories on why storytelling fails in content marketing, so you might be confused as to where to start.

What is the right path? Where do you start? The answer is simplicity.

Know What Story You Are Telling

At the basic level, storytelling is storytelling, and the words matter as much as pretty images. Building a good story, building good engagement, and building a good experience all grow from the same root idea. Without a solid “plot” or an interesting “character,” your story is already doomed.

Building your client into that interesting character is important.

Who are they? What do they do? How can they help?

These simple ideas are key and need to be first priority when building a story. Knowing who you are writing the story about might seem obvious, but there is always the potential to fall into the trap of trying to fit a square-peg client into a round-hole story.

In the end, the real power of a simple story is that it has staying power.

Good Stories Stick Around (Like Spider-Man!) 

Does your storytelling have the same simple staying power as something like a superhero? While you might laugh at the idea of comics as art – why, I’ll never know – there are characters in the cape-and-tights set celebrating over 50 years of existence.

Now, your storytelling might not involve radioactive spiders or spandex, but you should still consider how simple some of the best superheroes are when writing your content’s story.

Take Spider-Man for example. Celebrating his 50th year, everyone’s favorite neighborhood wall-crawler has shown a talent for maintaining a simple story base – Peter Parker gets bitten by radioactive spider, loses loving uncle, accepts that “with great power comes great responsibility” thing, and becomes Spider-Man to avenge his uncle and stop crime.

Mind you, Peter Parker’s recently had not one, but two bouts of death in recent comics, but no one doubts that Parker will be back soon enough. After all, the guy got over a minor case of death in 2005 too…

I could go on about the massive power of an easily translatable character like Spider-Man, with his numerous animated versions, multiple films, and even a Japanese series where he had a giant robot, but the power of a solid, simple story is obvious.

What is the key to your story? Is it simple?

Something too complex will always have a higher potential of falling apart and then you’ll just be stuck writing new content to patch holes in the already existent story, much like the laughable DVD-exclusive “epilogue” to Lost that answered as many of the leftover questions (read: all of the questions) in twelve minutes.

Let’s be real: no one wants their content compared to the end of Lost.

How are you keeping your storytelling simple?


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Michael is a graduate of New York University’s Film and Television program. He specialized in writing, channeling a passion for storytelling, no matter the medium. In addition to his work at CEM, Michael primarily works in web content production, including projects like Geek Crash Course, a geek-educational series, the Ansible, a comics-based interview show, live performance series The Next Lab Sessions, and many more. In addition, he’s written and edited for the digitally distributed Champion! Magazine.

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