This is one segment of a series of posts about storytelling. These posts will focus on the use of storytelling as an effective means of communication, education, and marketing. Storytelling is a wonderful way to share complex ideas in a memorable manner. This post examines what makes a memorable story.

Stories are narratives that describe a series of connected events. Amazing narratives entrance the audience and linger in the mind. But what makes a story enticing and memorable? To understand this, we first need to examine the major components of a story, which are the characters, the plot, and the dilemma. Characters are the participants of the story and the plot is the series of events that the characters perform in order to resolve the dilemma.

How do storytellers use the characters, plot, and dilemma? Successful storytellers have to consider their audience carefully and introduce their characters and background. They want to provide enough information so that the audience members can understand and follow the story. If the background information is excessive or too detailed, the listeners may become bored. Next, storytellers develop the plot, or storyline, in a logical and well-paced manner. Finally, storytellers explain how the dilemma is solved and the story ends. Effective storytellers use the components of the story to engage their audience so that the tale is remembered.

Can scientists be storytellers? Scientists are already practicing storytellers in their working life; and importantly, popular scientists are great storytellers, which means that their discoveries and data are shared with and captivate the world. Scientists publish their work to share their findings and many funding agencies use a scientist’s publication record as a measure of their success. So many papers are published every year with important findings, but only a few are memorable. What makes these article enticing to read and notable?

A great research article is successful story. Let’s consider the layout of a research paper, which has an introduction, a methods section, the results, and the discussion. This layout is the same as that used by storytellers. In the introduction, scientists describe all the participants and the problem (e.g. gap in our current knowledge). In the methods and results, they describe how the participants proceeded to interact to solve the dilemma. A well written paper presents the experiments in a logical order. Finally, the dilemma, or gap in our current knowledge, is presented and pondered in the discussion. Successful writers often discuss how the paper’s findings impact the larger world and aren’t limited to a narrow field of specialists.

More and more journals are requiring pictorial abstracts or summaries because they are an easy form to communicate complex data succinctly. But what if scientists could go a step further and eliminate all the confusing arrows from their stationary models by using video storytelling? Videos can show the complex interactions of the participants more easily, while engaging multiple senses of the audience members. Motionbirth is helping scientists to create these scientific videos. Their videos are beautiful and educational narratives that are helping scientist to explain their data to a diverse audience, so that the impact of their findings can be understood and appreciated.