Coming up with an outline for your video script is always a good idea. In fact, doing so is practically mandatory. But simply running through those brief points in the video itself won’t make for the best story, and that’s not good.
Yes, you want your video content to help you achieve your goals, whatever they may be, but it won’t have any chance of doing that if your audience isn’t engaged, and that takes quality storytelling.
So, as NY / NJ video production vets who’ve had to tell a lot of visual stories in our time in the industry, we thought we’d pass on a few tips for giving your video a narrative arc that will keep viewers interested and build toward a satisfying conclusion.
What, exactly, is a story arc?
Every story should have a beginning, middle, and end. You’ve probably heard that before and thought it sounds simple enough, but did you ever stop to ask why? Probably not, but the truth is, if it didn’t have a beginning, middle, and end, then it wouldn’t be a story, or at least a very good one.
And creating a narrative arc isn’t just about stringing together three random incidences which occur at the start, in the middle, and at the conclusion. The events need to be connected. There should be a cause-and-effect relationship between them, no matter what kind of video you’re making.
The progression, the rise and fall of tension which results from that relationship is what gives a story its structure, its shape. Without it, viewers wouldn’t feel very compelled to keep watching throughout.
People naturally want to know what happens next, whether that means getting an answer to a question posed at the start, seeing how a character resolves a dilemma, learning the meaning behind an initial message, etc., and a well-developed story arc will satisfy that appetite.
You’ve got to get your hooks in fast and deep.
While it’s harder than ever to create videos that stand out from the rest these days, what with so many more people making them, if you don’t hook viewers in from the very start, then you won’t have a chance, period.
Viewers are more sophisticated and impatient than ever before, and that’s a dangerous combination for videomakers, marketers, brands, etc. They know what they want and don’t want, and it doesn’t take them long to make the distinction.
So, you need to hook them in fast. How? Well, it largely depends on what your mission is and the viewers you’re trying to reach, but it could mean taking the classic cliffhanger approach, presenting a surprising statistic or intriguing question at the start, or beginning with an interesting anecdote.
However you do it, the key is to spark the audience’s interest and give them a reason to care or feel invested enough to continue watching. No one’s saying that it’s easy, but it is a must.
And on that note, you may want to think about hooking viewers in without using sound, especially if the videos are intended for social media use. For more on that, check out this post, Tips for Hooking Viewers into Your Videos Without Sound.
Don’t treat the middle of your video like a waiting period.
Yes, your second act, the middle, will never see the light of day, or at least the eyes of the viewers, if you don’t hook them in from the start. But if you ask any storyteller in which section, or act, the most problems commonly occur, they’d say the second.
That’s when stories tend to drag, and viewers won’t stick around for a second if they sense that. You can’t just treat the middle of your story arc as a waiting period until the big payoff. There needs to continue to be a steady progression throughout.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything needs to be moving up. It helps to think of it in terms of intensity. Any good story has peaks and valleys of intensity along the way. That’s what gives it a rhythm and pace.
So, plot out your story’s events on a graph in terms of their intensity. The more intense, the higher their position on the graph. Then, see if the line’s too straight in the middle and you’re asking viewers to just wait for the conclusion. We’ve been in video production in NY and NJ for a long time, and trust us, they won’t.
Make sure the payoff befits the setup.
No one likes a big talker if they can’t back it up, and that holds true for your video content. If you allude to a big payoff and keep telling viewers that it’ll be worth their time to stick around to the end, then it better really be worth their time.
Again, how you actually go about creating a powerful payoff depends on your specific objectives with your videos and the particular viewers you’re trying to connect with, but the point is that you shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep.
It’s not that viewers will be satisfied with an underwhelming ending as long as you don’t promise a powerful one. They obviously won’t, but the climax needs to, at the very least, be the high point of your video’s story.
The last thing you want is viewers feeling let down, because even if you provided them with an intriguing beginning and immersive middle, they won’t remember all that if the ending disappoints. That’s all they’ll remember, which means they won’t likely remember you, unless it’s for all the wrong reasons.
Think of your video’s story as a journey, not a street sign.
For a more in-depth breakdown that should help with scripting a story for your video, check out this post, The 7 Major Plot Points: The Key to Developing an Effective Script Outline for Your Film or Video Production.
But the bottom line is that using video to achieve your goals isn’t as simple as coming out and stating those goals with a camera on you. You need to get your audience engaged and that takes a captivating story, which requires a well-developed arc. We hope these tips help get you there.
About Us: KVibe Productions, a New York/New Jersey full-service film & video production company, can handle every aspect of the production process. Whether it’s a commercial, corporate video, or a feature film, etc., at KVibe, we always create to inspire.