How to Tell Emotive Stories That Resonates

4 min read
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Have you ever watched a video story by an organization, and it was blah? I mean, you felt nothing but boredom. This feeling is the opposite of emotive stories. When we say emotive or personal storytelling, we mean stories that arouse or spark an emotion inside the person listening and/or watching a story.

In this article, let's address three factors to consider when storytelling.

Identify How You Want Your Audience to Feel

Emotive storytelling starts with identifying the fundamental emotion you want your audience to experience. Do you want your audience to feel inspired, excited, or melancholy?

Deciding how you want your audience to feel is one of the first steps to developing your story. Before filming anything, we collaborate with our clients to identify a film's purpose and vision.

This process includes brainstorming keywords that best define the below. The keywords are a filtering system for every creative decision we make moving forward.

  • What's most inspiring about this story?
  • What's most unique about this story?
  • Who's the target audience?
  • How do we, the audience feel?
  • What do we want the audience to do?

Build Trust With Your Story Heart to Access Vulnerability

Before choosing your story heart (the main character) or the person who will share their story, you must work with them to build trust so they can be open and vulnerable.

Emotive storytelling is all about trust. Without trust, you won't get vulnerable. By definition, being vulnerable is being susceptible to physical or emotional harm. When someone chooses to be vulnerable, it's a bold move. Not only that, it's usually done with trust that you won't hurt me. When the vulnerability of the character's experience is shared, you are drawn in, mirroring what your story heart is feeling.

The way you work with your story heart is to show them you care about them. There are various ways to do this, but our method is engaging in meaningful dialogue and listening with intention.

One of my biggest pet peeves is people who ask you how you're doing while walking by you. Their actions show they don't care enough to hold space for me actually to share how I'm doing. Before we arrive on set, we have many conversations with our main character.

Each time, we're asking deep questions to get to know them. We often repeat what we're hearing so that the person knows we're listening. Even when we cannot have many or zero conversations before filming an interview, we can still build trust quickly using this method.

Environmental Initiative Awards premiering emotive stories

An example of this is our work for the Environmental Initiative Awards 2023. We could only speak to Jamez Staples 30 mins before filming his interview. I engaged in an open conversation with him. This meant I also was vulnerable with him so he could trust me.

We filmed his interview by asking more meaningful questions, and BOOM. One question knocked on the door of his vulnerability. With tears in his eye, he got deep and explained how he felt during a discriminative experience.

Fast forward to the award night, where his story and others premiered. As the video ended, the room rose from their seats with clapping hands. This result is possible because people felt a glimmer of Jamez's experience through narrative transportation.

They were in his shoes for a brief moment, but enough that compelled people to praise the journey Jamez has traversed. This is the power of emotive stories.

Structure Your Emotive Stories the Right Way

There's a reason films, books, oral traditions, and other mediums follow a formula for storytelling. It works. Telling a story with missing plot points leaves gaps in the audience's brain that distract them from the story. While you're telling the story, the person listening is discerning who they are talking about.

Stories follow a sequence of plot points, even short stories. There are various terms describing the same plot order. But think about the story's beginning, middle, and ending for simplicity's sake.

The beginning of your story will spark questions, who is the person, what do they want, and will they achieve it? The middle of your story is the journey of overcoming the conflict. Your story's ending is the resolution to your big question.

To learn more about creating a narrative arc, check out this article.

For Jamez's story, there's a beginning question: who are you, and why do you do what you do? Although the middle of this story doesn't takes us on a journey, it pauses the conflict to emphasize this experience. The ending is the resolution of overcoming the discriminatory conflict and his contributions to the community.

So, How Do You Tell Emotive Stories?

You can tell stories that move people when you understand the intended emotional response, help your story heart be vulnerable, and follow story structure best practices. Doing these things will help make your organization known for your work and how you make people feel.

The key is to connect with your audience on an emotional level. Keep experimenting and testing different story ideas to see what resonates with your audience.

If you want to process in real time how emotive stories can be used for your nonprofit, schedule a consultation today. Happy storytelling!

We're a Minnesota-based storytelling agency serving the Midwestern United States.

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