Dave Wentworth

Apr 16, 2022

5 Critical Elements to Use in Stories to Capture the Audience

53-time Moth StorySLAM champion Matthew Dicks uses these 5 key elements to make his stories irresistible.

Why does this matter?

Because every time you speak or write is a chance to grab your audience. This leads to higher engagement and higher connection.

The 5 Storytelling Elements:

1/ Elephants

The elephant is the reason the audience should care.

This gives instant stakes.

Example: "I was trapped in the bathroom of the Kwik-E-Mart. The robber barked at me to come out."

Elephants should be shared as close to the beginning as possible.

2/ Backpacks

Backpacks are a way to load the audience up with hopes and fears. The audience can then anticipate what is next.

This builds tension.

Example: "I found a way to unlock the bathroom window, but I had to crawl out headfirst. I'd have to go quickly because he was about to come in."

Backpacks put the reader in the shoes of the speaker AND anticipate what happens next.

3/ Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs hint at a future action earlier in the story, without giving it away.

They creates wonder in the readers mind.

Example: "When I entered the bathroom, I had to step over the janitor bucket in the doorway."

This doesn't give anything away, but gives the reader some curiosity about how this could affect the outcome.

4/ Hourglasses

The hourglass slows down the action right before the reveal.

The audience can simmer in their anticipation.

Example: "I tipped over the yellow janitor bucket, spilling water everywhere. I pulled my pocket knife out of my pocket and popped out the screwdriver. I knew what I had to do."

Now you wonder, what the hell is he planning to do?

5/ Crystal Balls

The crystal ball is a false prediction of what's going to happen.

This builds hope or dread which can be dashed.

Example: The robber yelled, "if you don't come out in 5 second now, I'm coming in there to kill you!"

The audience will wonder if this will actually happen, adding to the suspense.

Read Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks

There's much more to storytelling, but if you master these elements, you'll have audiences locked in.

P.S. my ending:

I couldn't fit through the window, even headfirst. So, I climbed the janitor bucket into the vent overhead which needed to be unscrewed quickly. I shimmied up and barely hung on. I climbed though the duct and made my way towards the front of the building. As I crawled through the dusty duct, I felt the ceiling shift. It was too late. I fell straight through the ceiling right on top of the robber. He was knocked unconscious. I stood up and noticed the police had just pulled up. Nice of them to stop by...

Dave Wentworth

Hey. How are you?