Iliyana's Blog

What Really Makes a Good Story?

[fa icon="calendar"] 06-Sep-2016 10:00:00 / by Iliyana Stareva

what_really_makes_a_good_story.jpgWe speak a lot about storytelling nowadays.

It's become an important part of any marketing or communications initiative because we struggle to reach our audiences and keep their attention. There's way too much noise out there so standing out is almost impossible. 

Being able to tell good stories is what allows you to be seen and read, it's how you show up in the newsfeed. 

But telling a good story isn't easy. It's an art in itself. An art that when backed by a bit of science and practice can be mastered. 

So today I want to dig a little deeper into what actually makes a good story. What is that science-backed essence we need so that our storytelling stands out?

As it turns out, there are seven key things your story needs: 

The 7 Things that Make a Good Story: 

1. Familiarity

It's human nature to more easily and quickly accept something that we already know. Why? Because we understand it. We might even like it. I read things I have at least a basic understanding of. Coding is definitely not my thing and I'm not even interested in learning more about it. So, with familiarity then comes knowing your audience. Who are you writing this story for and how can you make it familiar to them? 

2. Trust in the Teller

Familiarity also builds up on trust. If we can't trust the source of the story, we are not really going to react to the story or we might not even stick around to experience it. 

3. Drama

What also makes us stick around is the drama, the unexpected, the new, the exciting. Stories cannot be boring. They need to develop and they need to make us feel something. 

4. Relatability

When we get emotional, we also relate to the stories better. If the story represents a real-life scenario, then we immerse ourselves in them, we identify ourselves with them. This is where persuasion stars. 

5. Immersion

The more we feel the drama, the more we relate to a story, the more we immerse ourselves in it. We become part of it. And this is where our opinions start to shape or adjust. 

6. Simplicity

But to change opinions is not easy. If you try and persuade someone that there are aliens on a nearby planet, you may not succeed. Deep beliefs are hard to play with. So stick with the simple things that can easily be seen, felt and experienced. This where you can add true impact. 

7. Agency

The last piece of the puzzle is to not put your conclusions straight out there. Let people come to those while experiencing your story. When we find meaning on our own, when we go our own way of discovering the truth or learning something new, this is when it sticks, when it becomes part of who we are and what we believe in. It's always better to show someone than to just tell them. 



This is one of the simplest but pretty straightforward formulas for storytelling I've seen. I quite like its simplicity because it's so easy to use.

For example, I recently created an infographic with the stories that agencies should be telling. This infographic explains the essence and what needs to be told but not necessarily how. With this little formula, that's exactly what you can figure out. 

So next time you write a story or give feedback/approval for a story, test for these seven key areas. When you hit the check box on them, you'll know you have a solid ground and some pretty good storytelling that will stand out.    

How do you know your story is good? 


Topics: Storytelling

Iliyana Stareva

Written by Iliyana Stareva

Iliyana Stareva is the author of Inbound PR - the book that is transforming the PR industry. She's also a keynote speaker and a consultant in inbound and digital for fast-growing companies and agencies. Currently, Iliyana is Chief of Staff to the EMEA President at ServiceNow. Before that, she held global and EMEA-wide positions at Cisco and HubSpot. She is also certified by the PMI as a Project Management Professional (PMP)®. In her free time, you can find Iliyana writing for her blog, dancing salsa or travelling the world.

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