Video storytelling 101: driving engagement through compelling stories

Video is growing in popularity. We take a look at the different approaches to video storytelling to help you create engaging videos that people want to watch, share and like.
March 3, 2021

From Trint's recent webinar "Craft better, edit faster" with Amina Moreau.

Co-founder of five-time Emmy Award winning Stillmotion and Sway Storytelling, Amina Moreau, joined us for our webinar on how video storytellers craft slick stories with smoother production. During the webinar we looked at the trends within the video industry, the different approaches to storytelling and the technology that brings everyone and everything together in the editing room.

Here, we'll compare the different approaches to video storytelling, with a focus on the benefits to help you choose the right approach for your project. 

The Three Act Structure

Examples: Casablanca, Moana and The Dark Knight

Successful stories are all about compelling, engaging content. During the webinar with Amina, we learned one way to achieve that is through the Three Act Structure. It may be the most simple approach to storytelling, but it's also one of the most popular. The three act structure divides stories into three sections: Act I, Act II and Act II. Or simply put, the beginning, middle and end. 

Screenwriter Syd Field labeled these acts as the Setup, Confrontation and Resolution, where Act I sets the scene, develops the characters and their goals; Act II raises the stakes and introduces obstacles and conflict; and Act III brings everything together and concludes the story.

Think of ourselves as the hero on a three act structure journey, to tell the stories of our dreams. 

Amina Moreau

Benefit: Using the Three Act Structure can help you tell compelling stories with an engaging narrative, and one that's sure to capture and hold your viewer's attention from beginning to end.


The Three Act Structure may be one of the easiest storylines for audiences to follow, but our webinar storytellers tended to opt for different styles to engage their audience



Multiple Timeline Structure

Examples: Pulp Fiction, 500 Days of Summer and Dunkirk

The Multiple Timeline Structure takes a few linear storylines and blends them together to create one overall story. It's possibly one of the most complicated structures for screenwriters, but when done well, it pays off.

Stories are intertwined and bring the characters together through shared themes, emotions or messages. But they're not necessarily directly connected to each other. For example, one character's conflict or issue doesn't impact the other characters. One approach to the Multiple Timeline Structure uses the same actors to portray different characters but in different time periods. 

Benefit: The Multiple Timeline Structure forges a stronger connection with the audience as it gives the overall story a deeper meaning, and creates the sense that we're all connected. This approach gives writers the opportunity to go beyond conventional video storytelling.

Fabula/Syuzhet Structure

Example: Moulin Rouge, American Beauty and Gandhi

Often used to tell true stories, the Fabula/Syuzhet Structure starts with the end of the story and takes viewers on a journey to show how they got there. This approach is all about the how, as opposed to the what.

Benefit: Starting with the ending of the story is a great hook to entice the audience as it creates a stronger narrative. Audiences are more invested. They want to know what happened, where it all went wrong (or right) and what led to the ultimate ending. Using the Fabula/Syuzhet Structure is a great way to use voiceover and narration in your stories.

What to use when

There's no hard rule on how you tell your story, but understanding the different techniques will help you choose the right one for both your story and your audience. Don't be afraid to experiment and try different techniques. Mixing things up will help draw in new audiences and re-engage old ones.



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