The Art of Storytelling


Start getting your story ideas here by watching StoryFilms that we’ve produced.


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  Storytelling is a powerful technique used in todays marketing strategies. As creative filmmakers here at Pennylane, story is at the heart of marketing films we produce. What we found, working with our clients, is that most marketing teams have a hard time telling stories properly. Fortunately storytelling is one of our strengths.

Components of Storytelling

  1. Character
  2. Conflict
  3. Desire
  4. Structure


People love human stories. The best way to start with storytelling is to find a character with a story. The good news is that everyone has a story. To use a real-life example, let’s introduce our character. Her name is Nikolina and she is a young girl who is diagnosed with leukemia. The client is Make-A-Wish and they want to tell the world about Nikolina’s story to raise awareness and help fundraise for a great cause. The name of the marketing film is called “The Princess”. So our first goal is to make people care about the character. The idea is to follow our character’s journey so it’s important to pick a main character. The biggest problem I see in todays marketing world is that brands try to shove too many characters into one marketing video. This dilutes the main character’s story. Remember sometimes less is more.


Conflict is the force that blocks the main character from getting to his or her goal. In our story, NIkolina’s goal is simple. She wants to be a normal happy 9 year old princess girl (just like every girl her age). When her and her family learn about her diagnosis, it turns their lives upside down and prevents her from what she wants. Now she is swept into a bubble, living in and out of the hospital, and missing family and holiday parties. Her parents are forced to keep Nikolina isolated from the world to prevent her from germs while she battles the fight of her life. Now that we have introduced conflict, we feel empathy for our main character and want her to overcome the battle. This is one of the most important elements of storytelling. Without conflict, we care less.


Desire is the unstoppable force within the character to accomplish their goal. Conflict and Desire are the yin and yang of storytelling. You need both to grab interest from the audience. If things always go bad or always go good and nothing opposes that force, then its natural for us to lose interest fast. It’s that fine dance of good vs. evil that peaks human interest. In our example, Nikolina’s drive to be that princess is her ultimate desire. When Make-A-Wish granted Nikolina a wish, she knew exactly what she was wishing for. Our story follows her journey as she transforms from a sick child into the 9 year old princess she always wanted to be. The audience wants her to reach that goal.


Now that we have covered character, conflict, and desire, lets put it altogether. Story structure is the big picture blueprint of a story. In many cases breaking it up into 3 parts is the simplest way to understand story structure. The most common type of story structure is 3-act storytelling. The 3 main parts are

  1. Act I: Setup
  2. Act II: Journey
  3. Act III: Resolution

Act I: Setup

The setup is usually the first 25% of your story. It’s our opportunity to explain the story and characters setting before they begin their desire/conflict journey. It’s up to us as storytellers to set the scene and put the audience in our character’s world. Think of the setup in terms of “Once upon a time…” A helpful tip to start is to think about the what, where, and when of your character and story. In Nikolina’s story, we set her up as a playful little healthy girl who always wanted to be a princess just like any other girl her age. The end of Act one should lead to a defined moment when the character’s world get’s shifted (or flipped upside down in many cases). This is referred to as the “Inciting Incident”. The inciting incident is the thing that changes your life (a death, an accident, a mistake, etc). Nicolina’s inciting incident was when her and her family found out she has cancer. What follows next is called “plot point 1”. This is the decision that the character makes because of the inciting incident. In Nikolina’s case, she “decided” to fight cancer and become a true princess by taking advantage of the wish she was granted by our non-profit organization. Plot point 1 is the component that drives us into Act II, the journey.

Act II: Journey

The journey is about 50% of our film. It is the give-and-take struggle between desire and conflict. If we make the journey too easy for the character than we lose interest and care. When we introduce obstacles in the way, it gets us engaged in the story and inspires us to root for our main character…we now care more. This is called engagement. . Storytelling is an artform. Check out some of the amazing stories that we’ve done for our clients.