What actuallly makes a good story?

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In this rare opportunity, we have the ability to pick the brain of our Creative Director and Co-Founder, Callan! The only other thing I need to say is… well, enjoy!

So what actually makes a good story? This is something we seriously need to ask ourselves in order to get better at what we do. Firstly, there’s three things we need to consider. We need to think about what we are doing. A good story has a purpose. We need to think about why we are doing it. A good story has reason. And once we understand what and why, only then can we consider the how we’re actually going to do it.

In my opinion, a good story is a combination of creative thoughts and techniques mashed together that ultimately evoke a strong, emotional response that in some way causes a reaction and changes a collective way of thinking. We tell these stories to entertain, we tell these stories to educate, to pass knowledge, and to inform. And we listen because we’re intrigued.

An emotional response could be anything – happiness, sadness, laughter, tears, fear, joy – whatever it is – if the story moves a person on this level and they leave the experience in some way changed, the story has done its job.

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a pretty harsh critic when it comes to films. They tell me I hate everything. And that might be the case, because in my opinion, if it does not change me in some way and I have not enjoyed it, I just think it has wasted my time. And I really don’t like wasting time!

Stories come from all languages, from all countries, and all in different forms; books, novels, comics, short stories, newspaper articles, illustrations… and countless other forms in traditional and digital styles. The ones I enjoy most just so happen to be in the form of the moving image. There’s nothing I enjoy more than going to a late-night cinema screening. I studied film-making and have read countless books on script writing… and although I do not profess to be a screenwriter at all, it just so happens that these type of stories at the most relevant to the work we do here at Jumbla.

So therefore, I think it’s important to study the fundamentals of story structure in a film as these basic rules can certainly be applied to the shorter films that we produce here every single day.

Once we understand the fundamental rules of storytelling of film making, only then can we really push the boundaries and break them.  And that’s complicated. Yes, story and script structure is important. Certain things essentially happen at certain points in time to keep the story intriguing and interesting. But that’s not everything. Good ideas and scripts don’t always turn out that way. It’s also how we portray these words visually. The framing we choose of certain shots… the length that each shot is held… the way the words are delivered… and various other factors all have an impact on the overall emotion and message that is communicated.

And unfortunately it’s too hard to sum all of that up in one blog-post. Sorry! But you will find that there’s one word that is the essence of my creative philosophy that I regularly use, and that can no doubt be applied to all forms of creativity, and that word is… simple. Keep it simple!

If you follow the fundamentals of any form of creativity, intuitively or not, you will more often than not end up with a better end result. The best logos are the most simple. Why? Because people get it. And it’s also no surprise that the best stories are often the most simple, too. Even films that are complicated in nature are often explained in a very simple way that everyone can understand. Yes they use tricks that you probably don’t even notice… like the framing or angle of a shot to make a character seem more or less powerful… but in the end most dialogue in a film is easy to understand and the structure, chronological or otherwise, is for the most-part straight forward. People understand that.

Paul Rand, the father of graphic designer, once said on logo design (something along the lines of): if I understands it there’s no reason it won’t work, because I’m no smarter than the average man on the street… There’s really no reason why this thought can’t be applied to story-telling as well. The point is – don’t over complicated it. If you don’t get it, there’s a good chance no one else will either. If you do get it, there’s a good chance others will too. But the way you do that – that’s up to you. Be creative! Try to be unique, try to be different… but just don’t be confusing.

Story is awesome. It’s awesome because the one thing that it has over absolutely anything else in the world, no matter what, is that everyone can do it. Everyone has a voice, everyone has story to tell, and everyone likes it. So get out your pens (or your laptop) and start writing! It doesn’t matter what it is, just get that creativity out of your head! Get excited! Tell people. And most importantly, have fun doing it!

Happy story-telling.

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