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Super-Short Storytelling Techniques – What Hemmingway Can Teach us about TikTok

Using short video formats for storytelling opens up some interesting creative marketing possibilities. Whether you’re looking for a new creative challenge or a new way to engage and entertain your audience, short-form video storytelling is a great way to do it. 

Tik Tok, Instagram Reels, and Stories on both Instagram and Facebook have popularized micro video, typically within the range of 15-60 seconds. 

You might be thinking 15 seconds is too short to tell a full story. But Hemmingway did it in six words with his story “baby shoes for sale, never worn.”

Truth be told, Hemingway didn’t actually write the story, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that you can write a full story in six words. And you can definitely tell a full story in a minute or less on video. 

Story Structure

To get started, it helps to have some structure, or at least an understanding of how stories are typically structured. Like we all learned back in school, stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. In the beginning, you introduce your character and their problems. In the middle, you explore how that problem will be resolved. The end is where you resolve your problem. 

Mentos 30-second ads from the 90s were great at inserting their product into micro stories. They quickly introduce the character, then the problem, and use humour to solve the problem, with a tidy resolution at the end. 

Humour or a lighthearted approach tends to work best with short videos, since you don’t have much time to create the character development required for dramas.

The Episodic Approach

Another approach to creatively using micro video is the episodic approach. This technique is all about telling a longer story over several episodes or videos, much like a television series develops its story. 

This approach works well for documenting projects or for doing regular updates.

Character and Conflict 

Character isn’t necessarily an actor or a fictionalized person. It really just refers to the subject on-camera. It doesn’t even have to be a person – an animal or product could also be the “character” in the video. 

The conflict needs to involve the character, as this is what drives the story forward. It could be a dog that can’t get a treat, a person who needs to clean their clothes, or some other problem that needs to be overcome.

Questions to Ask

When creating your story, it can help to ask yourself a series of questions. Start with asking what action you want your audience to take after watching the video, then go from there. These questions are similar to questions often asked by marketing folks, such as “what problems does the customer have” and “how does this product solve those problems.”

Asking yourself the following questions can help when creating an outline or script for your video. 

What is the video about

This is an overall question that can help set the tone for your video and give it some structure. For example, if you’re a landscaping company, you may want to make a video about how people struggle to enjoy their yard because it doesn’t meet their needs. 

Who does it involve

This is where you figure out who is going to be in your video. Using our landscape example, we’ll have the homeowner as the main character and the landscaper as the solution provider.

What is the problem

Identifying the problem will help you to flesh out ways to show the conflict. For our family in need of landscaping, perhaps there’s nowhere to gather with friends, or to barbecue, or a lack of grass, or maybe there’s no pool. 

What is the solution

The solution, or conflict resolution, is how you end the video. The process of getting to the solution will be the middle part of your video. This is where the landscapers install the firepit and patio blocks, with the end shot being a happy family sitting around the fire. 

For all your video creation needs, the team at Dream It Reel has you covered. 

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