Updated: Mar 22, 2019
What constitutes a good story? I don’t mean the kind that simply makes us feel good –
but what characteristics are necessary to make a story worthwhile?
The idea of storytelling is universal. It crosses culture, language, defies barriers, and is compelling. At its core, storytelling is something truly ‘human.’
Globally, storytelling has the potential to reach people in all walks of life, but consider its
diversity even in the life of one individual. Storytelling is everywhere – in novels, films,
lullabies, text threads, musicals, conversations, the individual mind, music, and even
It is ageless, it is authentic, and it is essential to the human experience.
Literary and theatrical genius William Shakespeare beautifully describes the art of
storytelling in the coming-of-age story Hamlet. He writes the title character to speak,
“...the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the
first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the
mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature,
scorn her own image, and the very age and body of
the time his form and pressure.”
I love the phrase “mirror up to nature.” It communicates that pure storytelling should
illuminate things that are true about the human experience. In this instance, the Bard is
obviously relating to storytelling in the form of theatre. Generally, though, storytelling
should serve to illuminate and confront things that are true of life itself – the good, the
bad, the ugly, and the in-between.
Advertising is not excused from the standard of good storytelling. The most successful
campaigns are ones that have enticing story lines and keep audience members holding
consumer a story. We remember, too, the ones that confront parts of the human
experience in the most creative and compelling ways.