5 Tips for Telling a Compelling Story

By Adam Darragh, New Orleans based videographer

Storytelling is a messy, timestaking process that nonetheless yields something really wonderful at the end. On the best days, it's like chiseling a statue out of stone; other times it's like making sausage. If you're willing to stick with it, you'll have created something that never existed before, and these five tips can help you do it:

1. Show, don't tell - your audience is smart, and they'll pick up on nuance. Resist the urge to explain yourself, and you'll find your audience more willing to engage your characters and your work overall.

2. Think motivation - perhaps more important than what your characters are doing is WHY they are doing it. You may choose to leave this question as a mystery for your audience, but you, the author, must know why.

3. Write and direct with the edit in mind - movies are patchwork quilts: dissimilar pieces sewn together into something bold and new. When envisioning a scene, keep in mind the scenes that are coming before and after, so they'll flow into one another and make sense in the final edit. 

4. Start on the action - only a handful of moments each day are worthy of telling stories about, so focus your scenes on those moments. Audiences don't always need to see how a character got where or how a conversation started; they want to see what a character does and thinks once he or she gets there. (Also remember to keep it short: "Brevity is the soul of wit," as Shakespeare said, and a lean, well-trimmed movie will leave audiences wanting more... in a very good way!)

5. Finally, tell a story that is truthful and meaningful to you - If it doesn't matter to you, it won't matter to your audience. More importantly, it gives your film--and you--a sense of purpose and fulfillment that is almost impossible to achieve if you're making it to suit someone else's perceived tastes. 


About the author:

Adam Darragh is a creative writer and filmmaker based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A graduate of Duke Divinity School and Stetson University, he is also a lifelong United Methodist, and is married to a United Methodist minister. His credits include "Pitch Perfect 2", SyFy Channel's upcoming "Lost Island", and a short film based on the poetry of Les Murray.