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Resources for Storytelling & Video tips

How to Tell a Story in One Minute -

the Four Cs

Storycenter's Mary Ann McNair

We all have stories to tell. We talk about everyday events, like running into a friend we haven’t seen for a long time, or meeting up with past workmates online, or something our dog or cat did that we can’t stop laughing about. But how do we find our own meaning in the stories that matter to us? And

how do we tell a story that really connects with the minds and hearts of our listeners?



Grab your audience’s attention from the very first line. It is critical for the storyteller to create this connection right from the start. A strong beginning suggests that we are about to be taken on a journey to some sort of insight by the teller about their experience. It suggests that the story has a purpose that we are about to understand.

How do you do that? One approach is to start in a moment of action. “I was nearing the finish line, my lungs about to burst, and I knew my parents were watching from the stands.” This line hooks us, because it makes us ask ourselves a question. Is she going to win the race? Will her parents be proud? Is she worried she’ll disappoint them?


Having started with a scene, we need to know more, to have the action or backstory help us make sense of when and where the scene might be taking place, what the stakes are, and how they lead us toward a moment of truth. This is the body of the story where you tell what happened. What were the events that led up to the race? What was her relationship like with her parents? What was most important to her? Did she genuinely want to win, or was it more important to please her parents?


In most powerful stories we see the character go through some sort of change or reach a new level of insight or clarity. In the case of our runner, she might decide that taking control of her life is more self-fulfilling than pleasing her parents. A question that might be imposed is how do we find meaning, ourselves, in the stories that matter to us?



In many stories, the change is so evident that simply closing out the scene will give the audience a clear sense of the message or insight intended. From fairy tales to more conceptual or modern versions of stories, we not only enjoy having to figure out the ending, but it makes us feel more connected to the story if we have a bit of work to do in understanding why the story is important to the storyteller. The end, or even the last line, shouldn’t wrap the story up with a bow. This, for instance, wouldn’t work so well in our example of the runner: “And I realized in that moment that I should stop trying to please my parents.” This might be a more impactful ending: “I decided that instead of getting up at 5:00 a.m. next Saturday to run laps, I would sleep in and ask my friend Heidi if she wanted to go for a hike and picnic in the mountains instead.”


This is just one approach to telling a powerful story. Have fun with it, and happy storytelling!


Writing your Story? Here are a few links to assist you in the creative process.

Seven ways to get professional-quality video from your smartphone by VTrep

How to write your story in 6 steps by Claire DeBoer

How to tell Powerful Personal Stories that will Captivate your Readers by Nicole Bianchi

If you have any questions, please contact us at - we would love to hear from you!

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