5 Lessons for Better Storytelling

Bring your ideas to life with these storytelling techniques.

It’s Sunday morning.

There you sit, on the edge of your seat in a silent room.

Your heart is racing.

It gets louder and louder with each beat as you stare intensely at your glowing screen.

The final seconds tick down…

You hold your breath—unsure if what you signed up for will arrive on time.

Then, a notification pierces the silence.

A new email.


The Create Smarter newsletter has arrived.

Bring Your Ideas to Life

In the past, we’ve talked about how to come up with great ideas for video content

But unfortunately—an idea alone isn’t compelling.

So how can you bring your best ideas to life?

You must become a better storyteller.

Let’s dig into 5 lessons that will help you tell better stories.

1. Make your audience care

Never assume your viewers/readers are automatically invested in what you're creating.

I start with the the principle that nobody cares.

Nobody cares about what I have to say… so your job as the writer is to think:

How do I make them care?

Neil Strauss

This perspective comes from an insightful “How I Write“ podcast interview between Neil Strauss and David Perell.

Adopt the mindset that your audience's attention is something to be earned, not taken for granted.

2. Use the element of surprise

Imagine stepping onto a stage, setting your audience up for a groundbreaking revelation, and you deliver... something entirely mundane.

This technique is called anticlimax.

Comedians—some of the best storytellers around—are masters of this.

Anti-climax sets up an expectation of a big, grand reveal, and then it reveals something unexpectedly… not.

McGuire Brannon

The key is in embracing the unexpected. Embracing surprise.

I used this technique in the introduction of this post. How’d I do?

To dig deeper, here’s a great video that breaks down anticlimax… plus 2 other engaging storytelling techniques. It features examples from John Mulaney & Steve Jobs.

3. Work backwards from emotion

Stop for a moment, and really think about the kind of videos or posts people actually share.

As Shaan Puri explains in this no-fluff storytelling masterclass, it’s probably something that draws one of these reactions:

  • LOL!

  • OMG!

  • WTF!

  • Awww…

  • Wow!

  • I wish I’d thought of that!

  • Somebody finally said it!

These are visceral, emotional responses.

So, ask yourself:

What specific emotion am I trying to evoke in the viewer/reader with this next post?

Write with that emotion in mind.

4. Make the intention and obstacle clear

In a good story, at any moment, it should be easy spot intention and obstacle.

Somebody wants something, and something is standing in their way of getting it.

  • The Rebel Alliance wants to overthrow the Empire and restore freedom to the galaxy, but—

  • Woody wants to maintain his place as Andy’s favorite toy, but—

  • Harry Potter wants to find a sense of belonging and protect his friends from harm, but—

  • The survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 want to get off the mysterious island the crash landed on, but—

By clearly setting up an intention and an obstacle, you establish what’s at stake.

This builds audience anticipation and their investment in your story.

5. Use visual storytelling to tap into your viewers imagination

Try to avoid explaining things in a plain, step by step way…

Instead, whenever you can, use a visual story or metaphor to make your point.

Ed Lawrence shares exactly how in this great video:

Imagine you’re making a video called: 5 things that ruin your cooking 

Instead of simply stating “Mistake #1: Don’t put too much salt in your soup,” try this:

“I once cooked soup for Queen Elizabeth. I spent hours preparing it. They took the bowl of soup to her table, and she said ‘This is delicious dear… it’s a shame there’s so much salt in it.’”

Ed Lawrence

Way more interesting!

The viewer pictures Queen Elizabeth. They imagine the room she’s in, the table she’s sitting at, the soup she’s eating…

By telling a visual story, you invite the viewer into the lesson and engage their mind.

This makes your story more interesting, enjoyable, and memorable.

Your Turn

Let’s recap:

  • Make your audience care (that’s your job!)

  • Use the element of surprise with techniques like anticlimax

  • Work backwards from emotion

  • Make the intention and obstacle clear

  • Use visual storytelling and metaphors

Whether creating videos, writing blog or social media posts… these strategies will help you capture your audience’s attention, evoke powerful emotions, and make your message more memorable.

So, choose one of these techniques and apply it in your next piece of content.

You’ll be surprised at the impact it can have on your audience’s engagement and response.

Speaking of response… what did you think of this post? 

Reply to this email and let me know! I’d love to hear your feedback.

And if you found these tips helpful, please share it with someone you think would find it valuable!

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