What Makes an Amazing and Compelling Story –

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

By Tucker Eastburn

Hello Dear Readers!

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” – Robert McKee

Stories are the lifeblood of all culture throughout the world. Whether it is comedic, romantic, satirical, or in any other style, stories have the innate capability to affect the hearts and minds of every single person on the planet. In today’s environment, there are so many different stories that a person can experience. One thing we have to ask, however, is how many of those stories are actually good? How many of those stories grip you from start to finish, impact your heart in a way that it has helped you grow and change forever, and has been something that left such a mark on you that you’d tell everyone you know to check it out for themselves? What makes a story truly spectacular? Today, we’d like to detail out the elements that we think truly make the most amazing and compelling stories. Hopefully, by the end of this post, all of us as creators and art-lovers alike may possibly learn how to promote and propagate truly beautiful pieces of storytelling.

1. Well-Developed Characters

One of the main elements needed in creating an incredible story are having characters that have been well thought out and that are multi-faceted in their design. One of Alexis and I’s favorite examples of this attribute is a show called Avatar the Last Airbender. If you haven’t seen this particular cartoon, we recommend you check it out. In this post, I will keep all information on the story and characters relatively spoiler free. In the show, from the very first lines of dialogue to the very final events of the concluding episodes, the characters and their personalities drive absolutely everything. As you watch the show, you get to know Aang, Katara, Sokka, Zuko, and countless others as you see all of their hopes, dreams, personal flaws, failures, successes, inner struggles, and so much more. You relate to their life stories, albeit their fantastical nature, and root for them as they grow and change as people throughout the story. All of the characters within the show all have their own goals, have intricate relationships with almost all of the other characters of the show, and are written in a way where you feel like they are real people. These are attributes that should be duplicated when writing a great story. Your tale needs to have characters who have their own flaws, who have relationships with other characters that give you a new perspective on the different aspects of their personality, and they also need to have such a calculated creation that they are indistinguishable from people that we would walk by on the street.

If you let the character’s personalities expand and grow, it then becomes easier to write all of the other material you need for your story. Bill Watterson, famous creator of the legendary Calvin and Hobbes comic strip put it this way when it came to how he put together the strips for his work, “If you have the personalities down, you understand them, [the characters], and identify with them; you can stick them in any situation and have a pretty good idea of how they're going to respond. Then it's just a matter of sanding and polishing up the jokes. But if you've got more ambiguous characters or stock stereotypes, the plastic comes through and they don't work as well.” [1] What Watterson is basically communicating here is that it is important to really set-up your characters in such a way that, if you have everything about them down, then it’s easy to figure out the themes, setting, world, and everything else needed to complete the stories. If you have cookie cutter characters derived from the most common of archetypes, then your whole story will fall apart. This is the first, as well as probably the most important, element that everyone needs to create a captivating, spectacular story.

2. Deep Themes

Additionally, another component that is integral in storytelling is having an actual message within your story to tell. I know that it is heavily implied that a story should have a story, but this idea is much deeper than it sounds. Throughout our own popular culture, there are countless examples of studios and companies who make a story simply for profit or for other reasons that are superficial at best. When it comes to developing a story, a lot of people go into it only in the pursuit of creating interesting set pieces, to make cool characters, or to have a story with a certain popular culture element to it. All of these reasons, if they are part of the main reasons that people tell a story, will lead to unsatisfying tales that completely lack in any substance. No matter if you have the best written characters, the most interesting world-building, or the best set pieces, if you do not have a deep central themes to base all those things around, the story that comes about from that sort of writing will be completely soulless. When making a story, there has to be a purpose behind it. It isn’t just to entertain people. A story’s purpose also lies in informing, providing insights into various topics, helping people find ways to possibly solve their problems, stirring hearts into action, changing attitudes, presenting ideals of culture, and to develop a good life. If your story doesn’t have a central theme based around these things, you will be basically telling a story just for vanity’s sake. Characters, and the world they live in, will be effectively shallow as they have no real room to operate and grow within. If there is no relatable foundation to connect with, your audience will be lost from the very beginning. This is why it is vital to have a theme behind your story. In this way, you story can impart something beneficial to all who are touched by it.

3. Intricate World-Building

Lastly, it is also a good idea, when putting together a story, to have that story be set in a world that feels alive. The franchises that has done this the best, in our opinion, are Star Wars and Harry Potter. Both of these worlds were so fleshed out in development that the worlds itself feel like a character of its own. The best world-building is done so well that it almost feels like the world in the story is and would be going on without the characters in the story interacting with it. It’s a world that’s living and breathing on its own and isn’t necessarily centered on the characters within it. The world serves as the backdrop to what is happening within the story and that it also has an effect on the character’s who live in it. In this way, it is important for all stories to strive towards having a world like this. If you can create a setting with which help to facilitate amazing characters and deeply impactful themes, then your story will be enhanced in the best of ways. People will want to continue to come back to your stories to learn more about the world or to see how events, big and small, unfold within it. This is why we think that it is the third most pivotal piece when it comes to putting together a story.

Stories that Help us be Better

When it comes to down to it, the storytelling itself is really designed to be something that enhances all people that come into contact with it as well as something that can form a lasting connection in the hearts of the audience. Not only is this done through the elements that we have detailed out within this post, it also is done through great pacing, well-written dialogue, and a myriad of other aspects that also should be well thought out. In the end, if your drive is to create a story that people can connect with, be impacted by, and can be used to help people grow, then we believe that your story will be a success. In our studio, those are the reasons why we have a heart for storytelling and how we strive to pursue it within our own works. So dear readers, hopefully you found this article helpful to your endeavors too! We wish everyone the best of luck and blessings as we all strive to create stories of exceptionally high caliber.

[1]http://timhulsizer.com/cwords/chonk.html

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