Brain Sturm, PhD

Brain Sturm, PhD

Brian Sturm lectured on Storytelling Theory and Practice in a lecture series for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he is a professor. The entire lecture is worth a watch, but I just wanted to highlight one brief comment from this almost forty-five minute lecture. The comment is this: if you think of random dots, story is what connects those dots. Though his comment almost certainly relates to understanding what a story is, it can also be applied in storytelling technique.

To make this point, the included film (below) from Camp4Collective opens with a seemingly unrelated narration that in the end ties the underlying story together. It’s a brilliant piece of work and you should take fifteen minutes and watch it.

A few sample questions to ask when crafting your story: What dots are you trying to connect? What seemingly unrelated dots could you introduce to help pull the story together? What dots could you introduce to add interest and an outside perspective?

Happy storytelling!

Curiosity from Camp 4 Collective for The North Face


This weeks insight into storytelling comes from marketing mastermind Gary Vaynerchuck. If you haven't had the pleasure of hearing him speak you really should watch the linked video below (WARNING: NSFW Language). Great stuff!

The thoughts below provide insight from Gary regarding social media platforms really  being storytelling platforms. This was a great thought when I found it and I've tried using it more in my online interactions.


Gary Vaynerchuck

Gary Vaynerchuck

Be a story teller. Marketers are storytellers because that's what people and humanity like. With social media, be a great breaking news storyteller, not a movie storyteller. Things should be light and quick in consumable dosages. Quality storytelling always wins...ALWAYS! With social media, everyone thinks about content when really it's all about context. Every social media platform is different in the way that stories are shared. Start respecting the platform by respecting the context. Don't just pitch what you're selling. Bring value to people within the space and give it to them in a way that a human being would give it to them, not a brand.

Now that you have the gist, you should watch the whole speech. What did you think?


To become a better creator, I like to be prepared. Continuing on with the thought of internally creating before externally creating, I’ll lend a word about preparation. As the Latin proverb goes, “Fortune favors the bold.” I’m not sure how bold it is to go into something totally prepared, but I do find that the fortuitous moments happen far more often. At least I capture them more often when I’m ready and have my homework finished.


How creative can I be if I’m unprepared? I liken it to the writing assignments I would get back in grade school. If I only allowed myself the time needed to put pencil to paper and push out a finalized first draft, I left no room for the magic to happen, no room for change or spontaneity. If, on the off chance, I created an outline, then had written a first draft with a few days to spare, I was not only able to refine the words into something good and finalized, but I had time to be creative and improve my work. You have to spend time being structured and uncreative to be able to save time for creation.


I’m not saying don’t be spontaneous or that some of the best photographs were unplanned. However, with photography, I make my worst photographs when I just show up. I have to be prepared in order to have the serendipitous moments. If I have a story or concept I am working towards, and I’m nailing the items I’ve planned for, I have left time, space, and mental effort for experimentation and happy accidents. If I have to come up with the story or the concept the day of the shoot, I find I’m beholden to a schedule or a deadline and leave no room for free thinking.


Finally, a brief thought on preparation. I’m sure the pre-game routine is different for everyone. I review my Muse folder (collection of inspiring work that gets my wheels turning and the juices flowing). I use packing lists that I have refined over the years so I know I have all of the equipment I may need. I research location, and client, and talent so I know how to coach and direct others into my vision. I create shot lists and map out the story I’m trying to tell. Finally, I ask lots and lots of questions. What elements will help me better tell this story? What are the tastes, sounds, smells, and sights of the story?

How about you? What does your pre-shoot preparation look like?


The next chapter in our series on storytelling comes to us from a wonderful talk given by filmmaker Andrew Stanton. Known for his animated films Toy Story and Wall-E, Andrew knows the key elements to telling a great story. I especially like his insight into the audience.


Andrew Stanton

Andrew Stanton

"Storytelling is joke telling. Don't forget the punchline." I love the thought of building up to something in a story. You should know where your story is going and how you plan on getting your audience there. Answer the question, "What's the ultimate goal?" and then build to that goal.

"Make me care." You're audience is reaching out and wanting to go on the journey with you. Involve them and they'll start to care. However, don't just give them the answer, make them work for it. Give them 2 + 2 not 4. Let them figure it out.

To illustrate the power of a story Andrew shares a quote that the late Mr. Rogers carried in his wallet. The quote is from a social worker and it reads, "Frankly there isn't anyone you couldn't learn to love once you learned their story."

More great insight into storytelling from one of the great storytellers of our time. Watch the video below.