4 Elements To Any Story


Once we understand why we are telling the story, we can figure out how to tell it. This requires a series of questions to help us discover the theme, plot, characters, and location.

  1. THEME | The theme is the heart of the story. The theme often evolves throughout the process, however, it's a good idea to group a list of words such as hope, despair, confidence, and loyalty. From there, we can get a good idea of how to move in the right direction for the next few steps.


    A character is typically a person or group of people, yet can also be an object, place, or idea. In order to focus our story, we need to decide on our characters. How do they move? Are they precise? Are they Erratic? High energy, or low energy? Who is the good guy, who is the bad guy, who is the helper, and who is the confidant?


    Locations indicate space and time. What locations will be necessary? Is it outdoor or indoor, daytime or nighttime? Should the space be seen as small or large? Is it intimate or distant, hopefull or hopeless, exciting or boring? When are the best times to feature the location?

  4. PLOT

    Then, how do we tell our story? Is this a drama or a comedy? How should our audience "feel" and what do we want them to take away from the story? How does it start, how does it end, and how do we get there? How have the characters changed from the beginning to the end? Whereas a lot of magic happens in the editing of a piece, it's often a good idea, even in documentary settings, to anticipate possible outcomes to the story.

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For example, in a shoot for United Way, we realized that the beginning of the day was going to be an early one, before the sun came up, we wanted to capture a dark sky with the moon and establish excitement before we reveal our characters. At the end, the last shot is a bright sky - sun shining - with high energy.


Once we have decided on theme, character, location, and plot we can select the tools needed to tell the story, determine budget, and schedule the shoot date.

Chase ArringtonComment