Tell It Well: The Structure of an Engaging Story

Epic made is full of craftsmen who create badass art. But we’re also storytellers, and more often than not, being a craftsman and a storyteller are one in the same. We’ve spoken about some of the interesting brand stories we’ve come across, and even plan to detail our own in a major way, but let’s focus on some of the mechanics of storytelling to see how they can help analyze the elements of great brand story. One of the most accepted and ubiquitous ways to analyze any good story, is to apply Freytag’s Pyramid.

Gustav Freytag, a German novelist and playwright,  wrote Die Technik des Dramas, in which he detailed a study of the 5 act structure. This structure begins with Exposition, then a Rising Action, a dramatic Climax, the Falling action, and finally a Resolution. In one way or another,  most brand stories will consist of four of these five parts.

Exposition

This is usually where we meet the CEO or founder of the company. Who are they, what’s their background, and what are their interests? This is where we can begin to understand and care about the founder and their eventual call to action.

Rising Action

Often, this where the founder notices a need, either for themselves or for the world. For Toms Shoes, this was witnessing the state of Argentinean children and being compelled to help. For Clif Bars, the founder was unable to choke down another bland tasting energy bar, so he decided  enlist his mother’s aid to create a tastier one.

If you’re telling your brand story the right way, these situations will relate directly to your people and they’ll be invested. These problems, big or small, relate to what they have experienced themselves. If you felt it, your people have felt it too, and that’s how you can reach them.

Climax

If we are to apply Freytag’s pyramid to a brand story, the actual founding of the company would be the Climax, the highest point of intrigue. This is when Toms founder, Blake Mycoskie created the One for One methodology and applied it to his newly created shoe company. Or, when Clif’s Bars’ founder Gary Erikson finally felt like his recipe was ready for mass market. This is the most compelling part of the brand story, because it takes the form of the service a company offers their people.

Whether it’s Tom’s shoes or Clif’s nutrition bars, the way the protagonist (founder) attempts to solve their problem is the same way they will solve their customer’s. Anyone who related to the protagonist’s personal dilemma in the Rising Action, will likely be invested in the solution they’ve found and applied.

Falling Action

The Falling Action is a result of the climax. In this case, this is where the story of the company continues while its doors are open. This is the continued sale and refinement of the product, or offering of the service. It’s the implementation of the solution created in the climax, and hopefully by now the story has reached people and they’re along for the rest of the ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Denouncement, or resolution, is usually how a story ends. A brand story, however, is the telling of how a brand came to be and how it hopes to continue from there on. This is where Freytag’s Pyramid ceases to be useful for our purposes, but the previous four points show a compelling way to set up and deliver a great brand story. Focus on relating to your people, then what drove you to action, then how you actually went about inciting the change you wanted to see, and finally the what you now have to offer as a result. Those are the basics of any good story.