Pretty much everyone in this world wants to be entertained, and many people follow with the desire to be informed. In every aspect of life, including YouTube, every video has some sort of story to tell, but some ways of storytelling are better than others.
To tell a story in a YouTube video, first start with a beginning that will grab the viewer’s attention. The story should be followed by setting the scene and introducing people and characters and then continue with the plot that is the main focus of the video. End with a satisfying conclusion.
This is only the beginning of how to tell a story in a YouTube video. There is a whole lot more information to cover, which will be discussed at length throughout the article, so keep reading to learn more!
How to Tell a Story
In the video below, YouTuber Sunny Lenarduzzi gives seven tips on how to tell a story. Her thoughts and ideas will be included in the following sections and explained thoroughly.
The Beginning of a Story
Creating any kind of story—whether in a notebook or on YouTube—will be a lot like writing a paper for English class, where the teacher will tell you to “make sure” there is an introduction with a thesis and a hook.
In a more theatrical wording, the beginning of a story could also be described as Act One. This section will hold the most information because this is the part that is key in getting and keeping the attention of a viewer.
First is the tease. This can be completely related to a teaser trailer for a movie. Teaser trailers give nothing more than a whiff of that sweet cookie smell in the kitchen. It shows you a faint detail of what is about to be revealed. This may be something as simple as making a statement or asking a question.
The tease is something that grabs the viewer’s attention and makes them interested and drawn in. The viewer’s curiosity gets the better of them, and they continue to watch even more of the story, curious of what might happen at the end.
Next is the hook. The hook is the actual trailer, and it creates a little more suspense. Maybe not even a little. A lot more suspense may be introduced. The hook is a lot like the tease, but with the hook, you as the Storyteller are going to tell the viewer what they are going to get out of this story/video.
This may sound like the creator is going to spoil the whole video for the viewer, but think about it this way: if this was an actual trailer, and a viewer just watched it, this would be the hook that was stated, not in words, but what the viewer may be thinking: “In this video, this is what you are going to get out of it: curiosity, some thrills, tears, and laughter. Come watch more.”
For informational videos, such as questions as “how to fix my phone,” the hook would be the creator saying that “by the end of this video, you will know exactly how to fix your phone.”
Set the scene. This has to be somewhere at the beginning of the story, as early as possible. Especially if this is a story meant for entertainment. The audience has to know what the scene is. A castle? A lake? Atlantis? The scene will more likely than not be one thing that will remain constant throughout the entire story. For example, in the Grimm Brothers’ story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, the main scenes were at the castle and the secret pavilion where the princesses danced all night long.
Along with this subject of setting the scene, there may be other elements included with this part, such as sound effects, graphics, and music.
Finally, once the scene has been set, introduce the characters. This is the most important part of the actual plot of the story. The viewers should probably get an idea of what the characters are, what they look like, and what their character and personalities are. For videos that are meant to be informational, it would be good to know who their beloved host and answer-master is. The introduction does not have to be long. (Adding in a few credentials might not be a bad idea either.)
Music videos are a little different. These videos can, most times, tell a story, depending on how the singer or artist wants the song to be expressed. With the introduction of characters, this can be the title page of the video, right before or just at the beginning of the song, which would state the title of the song, and the artist’s name.
This can also be done at the end of a video, for example, one man who sings a Capella on YouTube always has a hello/thank-you minute at the end of his videos to simply tell the viewer who he is, what he does, and express gratitude for patrons and anybody who watches his videos and supports him.
The Middle/Plot of a Story
The middle part of the story, otherwise known as Act Two, should be the main filling of the whole story. This is where the conflict, action, drama, and romance come into play. This is also where the main message of the story slowly comes out and into the light.
In informational videos, there are many YouTubers who call this part the “meat.” This is where the answers lie, where all of the good and helpful information is, and what the viewers actually want to watch and listen to.
The other smaller, comparatively insignificant part of Act Two is bringing the whole story-video back to the tease. This should be at the very end of the middle of the story, if not at the very beginning of the ending of the story, before the conclusion. This will be bringing up the question or statement that had been asked or stated at the very beginning that first caught the viewer’s attention.
The Ending of a Story
In most fairytales, the ending of the story almost always ends with “The End.” This is the final act. Act Three. This is where the climax and conclusion fall in.
At the ending of the story, the creator has to wrap things up. This is where the suspense creeps up and the problems begin to be resolved. The ending is also the point of the story where key points are brought up. In information videos, these should be stated with simplicity and bluntness. (Source)
At the end of the story, the viewer should feel satisfied with how the story ended or with the information they were able to get out of this story/video. Make sure to see how the audience likes the videos and their reactions. Get feedback from friends and family who will give constructive criticism so the next video will be better.
Tone and Body Language in a Story
This is the most important part of the entire video. Especially if you are all the camera and viewers see.
Tone is the author/creator’s attitude when it comes to their video. It is what they feel about the material. If this is a person who is extremely good a critiquing movies and fascinated by the process and logistics of film and the plot, then the viewers will be fascinated as well and interested in what they have to say.
For example, there is a YouTube music vocal teacher who not only teaches voice but also has done reaction videos for movies with songs in them. This vocal teacher is so passionate and very good at what she does, she is able to critique the actors and their voices, how well they blend, and how they use their voice: whether they use their chest voice or their head voice. She critiques the songs themselves, like how well they fit into the story, if it moves the plot along, or if it’s a “just there to be pretty” song.
The point to make with this particular YouTube teacher is that she is clearly enthusiastic and informative, and it shows in her tone.
Body language is very similar. Despite a screen being in between you and the viewer, the viewer can still feel the energy that is being displayed when you are clearly in the zone. People who make videos about things or subjects they enjoy are more entertaining to watch and learn from than people who are simply recording for reasons that are their own.
The body can distinctly tell a person whether the subject is interesting or not. The light in their eyes, the grins on their faces, and their excited hand motions make the viewer feel excited and smile as well.
Other Storytelling Tips
These next few tips will hopefully help in knowing how to tell a story better. Having a storyline is great, and having it told is great too. However, like many other things in life, there is a difference between something being done, and something being done with technique.
One tip in telling a story is to build and release tension. What this means is that stories shouldn’t feel rushed or pushed through, like a last-minute essay. Let the story flow and breathe on its own. A story can be told in a short way and still not feel rushed. The viewer wants to enjoy what they are watching and listening to and not feel like the story is going too fast or that something is missing.
Another tip is to focus on what is important in the story/video. With videos that are informational, viewers want to know how to get something done and fixed in five minutes, and not a half-hour. It also means with stories, to not get distracted with side stories that don’t have a purpose to the actual story the creator is trying to tell.
Show. Don’t tell. This should be a fact in any video. Most people are visual learners; they have to see with their own eyes. In information videos, it’s good to have something in front of the creator to demonstrate with. With stories, pictures and colors keep the viewer engaged. If there is just a person who is only talking, the viewer will quickly find another video that suits their entertainment tastes. (Source)
Tip: keep the flow logical. If a story is being told, it has to make sense, even if it’s about a galaxy that is completely made up. If so, explain the foreign concepts to the viewer, whether by telling or by showing. Throughout the video, make sure that details that can be easily forgotten are woven back into the story.
Get to the point. It’s like talking to one of those people who say something, take a detour that can last from five minutes to forever before finally making the point they were trying to make in the first place. In this day and age, if we want something, we want it now. That may apply mainly to worldly things, but it works just as well in stories. (Source)
One tip that may be a little harder for some is to be yourself. Viewers like to see the creator as they are and do not like to be told that who they see on YouTube isn’t who the viewers think the creators are. As you create stories and videos, keep an eye out for what the audience thinks of your personality. (Source)
This may be uncomfortable at first, but practice will make a difference. Humor may be a part of the personality, and if so, that is great! Everybody has some type of sense of humor; some show it more prominently than others. Again, as you practice, it will come naturally.
The last tip is to make the story-video conclusive. If there was a question asked in the beginning, make sure it’s answered clearly by the end of it. If there was a moral to the story, make sure it is understood or stated in the video.