Try Telling Your Story in Just 3 Words

Could you boil down the entire message of your video to just 3 words? 

When you’ve created content, cutting anything can be difficult. Just ask author Stephen King. He calls the editing phase of writing “killing your darlings” because it can be difficult or personal to get rid of something. But here’s the thing … the 3 word story doesn’t mean you can only use 3 words. It’s a tool to help you make sure you have a point, and you stick to that point!

Way back in the early days of Idea Decanter, when we were telling stories about making wine, not saving and investing money, we had the chance to do a story from the grape’s perspective during harvest.

Just picture the plump, juicy pinot noir grape dangling on a cluster, hanging from a vine, soaking up the last of September’s warm Oregon sunshine on the side of a rolling hill in the Chehalem Mountains. The grape doesn’t know what’s coming, but our GoPro camera was about to find out. We called it: Life of Grape.

The 3 Word Drill Down

Unlike the beginning of this blog, a 3-word story doesn’t have a lot of frills. Three words don’t leave much room for a flowery description, in fact, adjectives just don’t make the cut. When you really drill down to 3 words, the only thing you have room for are the basics.

Why Tell a Story in 3 Words?

It’s easy to get off track in storytelling. If you get distracted and wonder off on tangents, you’re likely losing your audience. So, unless you want to share your story with absolutely no one, it pays to focus your story.

Finding Your Focus

We didn’t actually “tell” Life of Grape in any words at all. We told it in pictures. From a picker’s hand plucking the GoPro off the vine and tossing it into a bucket, to the camera making its way back to the winery where the fun really began (no GoPros were harmed during the production of this video despite a few very close calls). But thanks to the tight focus of our 3-word story, each time we had an idea of what to shoot, we considered how it fit into getting those 3 words across to our viewers. If it took us off track, we knew it immediately.

The Shortest Kind of Storytelling

We didn’t come up with this concept. We gleaned this little gem from a storytelling workshop by The Poynter Institute more than a decade ago and we have been putting it to work ever since. 

You might even be thinking, “Hey, I’ve seen this somewhere.” ABC’s Good Morning America launched a Your 3 Words series asking viewers to scribble a 3-word story on anything from a piece of paper to their own hand. Viewers submitted stills and video to share their own story with the nation. The series included videos like “Triplets Turning 30” or “My Cancer Gone”. 

Sometimes 3 words really can tell a story.

Your Challenge: When you are creating your next piece of content, once you come up with a concept, boil it down to 3 words. Then use those 3 words to help make sure you are delivering on your story’s promise. Your audience will thank you!

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