It can be difficult to only say a little when you really want to say a lot. But in today’s age of short-form creative content, can you showcase your inventiveness and still tell a story?
No matter how many times I watch the Disney Pixar film Up, I will never be prepared for the first eight minutes. It’s a study in beautifully concise, genuinely engaging creative content.
If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know exactly what I mean. In a series of heart-warming montages we’re introduced to the protagonist Carl and his wife Ellie. We ride the rollercoaster of highs and lows as we watch them fall in love and grow old together, then experience the heart-breaking moment when Carl enters his house alone for the first time (sob).
The beauty of those first few minutes prompted a wave of memes with the line: “Disney told a better love story in eight minutes than Twilight did in four films.”
That caught my attention. With zero dialogue and in a matter of moments, Disney had told Carl and Ellie’s story more eloquently than Bella and Edward’s had been in an hours-long saga.
It got me thinking about how we communicate when it comes to creative content. As a writer, it can be very easy to write pages and pages about a subject – particularly when we’ve done a lot of research. But if the content isn’t engaging, it’s also very easy to lose our audience in the first few lines.
Label: ‘not for oral use’. Oops.
I introduce the six-word story. As a writing format, it’s not a new concept – although it’s become very popular in recent years across social media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr, where the characters per post are limited. One of the most well-known examples is the (urban) legend of Ernest Hemingway’s:
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn”.
It’s shorter than most story titles, but still has a beginning, middle and end. It’s dark, evocative and gets you right in the ‘feels’ – much the same as a novel or short story might.
It’s a prime example of why less is more when it comes to content. In a similar way to Up, it relies on the reader’s storytelling mind to fill in the gaps.
The art of storytelling in creative content
Robert McKee (considered by many to be the world’s leading educator on strategic storytelling) says: “If your messaging is really good, you realise you don’t necessarily need to put all the elements of a story in front of the audience, because the audience’s mind is a story-making mind. If you give them certain elements, they will supply the rest.”
When used imaginatively, storytelling across social media channels such as Twitter and Instagram can hook people in, grab them on an emotional level and engage their interest.
With that in mind, here are a few of our top tips when it comes to telling a story with your creative content:
Less is often more
When creating content, keep it simple. Don’t use 20 words to explain something when six will do just fine.
Know your audience
You (most likely!) wouldn’t speak to experts in a specialist field the same way as to your pals in the pub. Your content must speak to readers in the same way. Avoid using specialist terminology if your average reader isn’t going to understand it.
Do your research – but don’t overdo it
You might be very interested in what you’ve learned about the varying elements of thrash metal and why certain bands reflect the niche aspects of the genre – but will your average reader? Unless you’re writing for a very select group of people, it’s best to keep your content free of endless facts and information to make sure the story isn’t lost.
Show, don’t tell
In most cases, bragging that you’re “the biggest / the shiniest / the newest” won’t engage your audience. Use your content creatively to show them. Why use a long, written news story telling people about a new process or a new product, when showing them a short vlog or an evocative image would be more engaging?
If you’d like help with your creative content, get in touch.