Better Story through Chemistry

Clarity.  We love a bit of that because when you work in the story business there can be a lot of fluff and misdirection.

There’s a very clear way to judge whether the story you’re telling is a success or not.  We call it ‘the feels’.  It’s the surge of emotional response audiences get when they watch/read/hear a well constructed story.  We all know it when we experience it and the first question that we ask ourselves when we produce a film for a client is whether it give us ‘the feels’.

Here’s a film that we made for a charity fundraising campaign that we think does deliver that.

Effective storytelling induces a particular kind of emotional response in audiences.  That’s what makes it influential, whether the intent of the producer is to change minds, elicit donations or to sell.  More on that here, in the context of modern maritime warfare.

So where does this emotional response come from? There’s a clear answer to that too.  Paul Zak is a scientist who has studied the neurochemical effects of storytelling.  Here’s an article that summarises the research.

Engaging storytelling provokes the production of three key chemicals in the brain.

  • Cortisol, the body’s response to stress, encourages us to pay attention.
  • Dopamine rewards us with pleasure and encourages us to learn and repeat behaviours.
  • Oxytocin, what Zak called ‘the moral molecule’, encourages us to engage in empathetic, pro-social behaviour.

Storytelling that induces all three has emotional impact and the ability to influence behaviour of the audience. Paul Zak’s research was done in the context of charity donations (and if you’re in the charity fundraising sector then you need to know all about it) but the influence effect works if you’re selling or campaigning too.

So how do you produce stories that reliably provoke the neurochemical response that delivers results time after time?  There’s a certain type of structured storytelling that does just that.  We’ve distilled what we’ve learnt from over a decade of producing these types of stories into a course that we’ve been delivering online since COVID hit.

In three two-hour sessions, it sets out the neurochemical background, the story structures and the building blocks that provoke the audience response that you need.  It will give you a model for analysing story content and diagnosing weaknesses and points of failure.  It’s fiercely practical – it gives you the chance to flex your story muscles and the confidence to produce your own.

There’s more information here.  And here’s what people have been saying about our training.

“Honestly, best training ever. Changed the way I look at my work.”Agata Byczewska. Press Officer, European People’s Party Group

“I just sold my first multimedia feature to the BBC. It just shows what a good decision I made by training with duckrabbit. I love what they’re about and would love to capture even a tiny bit of that spirit in my own work.” Ciara Leeming, Freelance journalist.

“I left the duckrabbit course full of enthusiasm and confidence. It must have worked because only my second attempt made the front page of the Guardian website.” Emma Wigley, Interactive Media Officer, Christian Aid

“Yesterday was outstanding. The format was perfect for us and covered everything we wanted. Fantastic trainers.” Barney Brown, Head of Digital Comms, University of Cambridge

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