How to Unleash the Power of Story Trance

It was the scene where Jessica Walter slices the palm of Clint Eastwood’s hand with the knife. I can still see the blood slowly oozing from the gaping wound. Forty-five years later, I can still feel that searing pain. 

This is the reason why I remember the movie “Play Misty for Me”. I do not remember it because it was Eastwood’s directorial debut. I do not remember it because he was so insistent that make this movie and direct it that he took no fee as director. I don’t even remember it because it was, contrary to what the studio executives expected, a resounding success. I remember it for that one vicious knife slash.

I empathized with the character. I felt his pain. 

The magic of movies and mirror neurons made me imagine that Eastwood’s hand was my hand. And I winced. Thanks to mirror neurons, our brains do not distinguish between an image that we have actually experienced and an image that we imagined. We can literally feel someone’s pain, pleasure, fear, or anger as we watch and subconsciously imagine having the same experience. Subsequently have the same emotional and sensory reactions. No wonder we get immersed in movies. 

Another bit of brain science also explains our involvement with storytelling, Did you know that when people listen to stories they experience the exact same brain pattern as the person telling the story? The more vividly listeners experience the story, the more their brain patterns synchronize with the storyteller’s brain patterns. When an audience is engaged the listeners will smile, nod their heads, flinch, cheer, cry…in unison. Story trance. A good storyteller can evoke this trance. A good storyteller can plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains. 

A good marketing storyteller can covert those listeners into customers. 

How? By sharing emotional experiences with vivid video storytelling. When the impact of storytelling is combined with the multi-sensory experience of video, the power of story trance is magnified. Vivid storytelling requires human elements–heroes, villains, magicians and drama. The story has to feel real, no matter how fabricated. It must evoke emotions to change the emotional state of the viewer. It must give the viewer an emotional experience. Video has  greater power to evoke that emotional experience than mere words. 

Consider this story:Once upon a time George (hero) had a problem (villian). George went to his smartphone, consulted the Almighty Google, found a video on Wistia about Mary (heroine) who had that same problem (villian). Mary was a wise woman so she came to you (magician) with her problem. You showed Mary the solution to her problem. It worked! Mary smiled. George wanted to smile, too, so he came to you. You gave George the solution to his problem and George smiled. The End.

This story will not light up amygdala (the emotional area of your brain) but is is a template for a video story. George’s story lacks imagery. It lacks detail. It lacks emotion. It’s up to you to find your story of George, to fill in those missing elements and bring it to life. 

  • Who are your George and Mary? 
  • What is their problem?
  • How do they feel?
  • How do you solve it? 

You are the magician. Infuse George and Mary’s tale with flair and suspense. Make it come alive in the imaginations of your viewers–with video. 

But please don’t let anyone get cut.

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