3 Reasons Why A Central Character in Storytelling Is Better

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Focusing on a central character—or the "Heart" of the story—can significantly heighten a film's emotional impact and effectiveness, especially in short formats ranging from 3-20 minutes.

In emotive video storytelling, the notion often arises: shouldn't we include more voices to make the story more compelling? After all, the more the merrier, right?

Not always. Let's explain why a central character in your storytelling will create a deeper audience engagement.

01. Connection Through Character Depth

When you hone in on a central character, you give your audience a figure to invest in emotionally. Your audience is on a journey with your character. When you provide the time to explore this character's desires, motivations, and unique qualities, it's a deeper connection that moves people, not a wider one.

Example: At BairStories, our film "Ripple of Cars" focused on Joe Mackenzie, an Anoka County resident making a difference through car repairs. His journey, supported by Helpers and Experts at Environmental Initiative, touched hearts and had a real-world impact on fundraising.

02. Focus Enables Transformation

A story's power often lies in the transformation or growth of its central character. Introducing too many characters can diffuse this transformative energy, making the storyline scattered and hard to follow.

Example: In "Evie's Voice," Evie's parents go from worried and overwhelmed about their daughter's hearing to reassured and confident in their daughter's growth. The audience needs to see this evolution, and it's much easier to communicate with a single, focused narrative.

03. Better Audience Engagement

The central character, aka the 'Heart' of your story, becomes the primary emotional connection for the audience.

When done right, your audience:

  • Bonds with your central character.
  • Starts to root for and wants to see the central character succeed. The fancy term for this is called narrative transportation.

A focused story around a central character is likelier to keep the audience engaged than a fragmented narrative with multiple voices.

But I don't want to exclude others.

The worry of excluding others when focusing on a central character is valid. In storytelling for marketing purposes, it's about amplifying the stories that will best serve the goal or objective.

Example: In "Belonging," over 20 students participated in the camping trip we filmed. However, focusing on the white students didn't align to inspire others to create more local and affordable inclusive outdoor education experiences.

Additional Characters – Helpers and Experts

Focusing on a central character doesn't mean other voices are completely silenced.

In our storytelling approach, Helpers and Experts are included when applicable. These additional characters play secondary roles to the Heart, reinforcing rather than diffusing the central storyline.

  • Helpers are characters who support the central character.
  • Experts are characters who fill in the informational gaps.

Tailoring Your Approach + Next Steps

All stories require something different. Your goals will largely influence the type of story you create for marketing purposes. Follow these steps to get started.

Set Goals: Know your aim—brand awareness, donations, or engagement.
Pick Your Heart: Choose a central character that aligns with your goals and work and possesses the Big 3 (desire, motivation, uniqueness). Conduct pre-interviews to find and discover these things.
Craft the Arc: Brainstorm the flow of your start and the essential plot points you need to tell that story so it's engaging.
Add Support: Are there any gaps in your story? A 'Helpers 'And/or 'Experts' could fill in for added depth. But keep the focus tight.

Wrapping Up Why A Central Character Beats Multiple Voices

In conclusion, by honing in on a central character in your storytelling, you're not just adding depth to your story but also forging a stronger emotional connection with your audience. This connection is necessary for people to take action. Remember, you're touching hearts to move minds.

Check out our free nonprofit storytelling guide to craft stories with depth that elevate empathy, community, and donations. 

Tagged: Emotive · Heart of Story

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