It’s Called Story Arc

Before you read this post, take a second to think about a television commercial, or a “This American Life” podcast, or an HBO documentary film that’s stuck with you for weeks, months, or even years.

Even if it was just a commercial, a lot of thought went into telling that story.  Advertisers get paid a lot of money to grab and keep your attention. We can bet Ira Glass spends hours arranging his content in a way that will best grab and keep your attention.  Documentary filmmakers do the same.  And we’d consider it a fair guess to say you’ve cried and laughed and held on to those stories without thinking too much about how they were told.

At Corduroy Media, we’ve laughed and cried over stories, too, but it’s our job to understand how it’s done so we can provide our clients with the stories that best grab and keep the attention of their chosen audience.

Before we get into that further, we invite you to view the following video:

In the video, we used a handful of common and effective storytelling techniques that are used in both radio and film:


This is the sequence of events in its purest form. By beginning our story with an emotional sequence of events we attempt to draw in viewers instantly. The anecdote also brings momentum to a story, so the viewer feels they are on a moving train that has specific stops (or moments in time) and an ultimate destination.


Without moments of reflection, our anecdote means nothing. Throughout major turning points of the story, we ask our subjects how they felt, and what they thought at these moments in time. This technique essentially allows the viewer to connect emotionally with the subjects, which always helps to keep the him/her engaged and eager to see what happens next.


Throughout our piece we plant a series of questions and answers into the viewer’s mind. By withholding information thoughtfully, we create a story that has a journey.

If you have the time, we invite you to watch the video once more with these techniques in mind and see if you can get a sense of specifically how we used them to help Rusty Carter of Season 1 Racing tell his story.

- Sean Donnelly