Look, it’s clear that you are already acquainted with the rules of effective storytelling. I don’t have to remind you about a three-act pyramid structure. I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you to “make it about a hero.” Yes, yes, every good story is — at its heart — a story about (say it with me) transformation. I see you, and you’re nailing it. You’re already telling engaging stories that get people to pay attention and take something away.
But how do you tell a story that gets someone to stand up and act? Let me pluralize it: How do you tell stories that create communities of action?
Taking a story’s power and effectiveness a step further means taking its relationship with its audience a step further. It means closing the gap between the two and reframing their connection — replacing a passive relationship with an active one. Ultimately, it means pulling audiences (who by definition live outside of your story) into your story and inviting them to become some of its most vital characters.
Let’s call it The Jumanji Effect (I’ve either lost you or won you over with that reference).
Getting to Jumanji
Whether you are an old school Robin Williams fan or prefer the updated franchise with The Rock, pulling people into the story is the thing we are talking about. To get to Jumanji, your storytelling approach must be four things: contextual, immersive, interactive, and emotional.
Contextual: Accepting the Invitation
People hate the dark. We like knowing what we are stepping into. The first step in getting people to accept your invitation is to establish context. What is this story about? What is this world like? What’s the name of the game here? Organize your story content into themes, chapters, or (here’s a term du jour) “pillars” in order to provide clarity.
Immersive: Giving them a Home
Now that the invitation has been accepted, the world you’ve built has to be cool, curious, and comfortable enough so that they’ll want to stay. It also has to feel real. How do you appeal to a multitude of senses? How can you disrupt their status quo and introduce them to a different one? Create multimedia experiences and live environments that feel real.
Interactive: Creating a Reason to Stay
They are here inside the world of your story. This is the moment of the glow up from audience to character. Characters are able to interact with their worlds, affect them, control them. You’ve made your world tactile, now give people something to do. Allow them to create their own connection to your story. Facilitate their ability to make a perceived impact through up close and personal experiences.
Emotional: Fostering a Sense of Ownership
People won’t act if they don’t care. The crucial final step to creating communities of action is to foster a sense of ownership in each and every individual. This is their world now. They understand that they can do something to affect it and now want to. Like all good stories, we have wound up back at the beginning. Three-act structures, heroes, transformation… it’s these fundamentals that form emotional ties that bind.
This type of storytelling isn’t only effective, it’s nourishing. It’s theatrical. And it’s transformative.
Obviously, a live event is the best place to disrupt / deliver context and create tactile experiences that will genuinely motivate people to not only live inside your story but affect it. This sense of ownership around your story’s purpose is the thing that turns communities of interest into communities of action. Following these steps will take your storytelling effectiveness to the next level.
By the way, Jumanji: The Next Level is in theaters December 13.