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Seven Critical Story Questions


Lets say youve unearthed lots of stories from your memories or from your clients' recollections. Youve turned the best of them into story commercials, but they could still use some tweaking.

Here are Seven Questions to ask yourself to help you find the focus in your stories. These are variations on the ones I got from my friend Andy Goodman

1. Whos the protagonist?

Just as a car needs a driver to get it where its going, stories need someone, a main character, to drive the action. This person (or group of people) is called the protagonist, and traditionally structured stories follow protagonists in pursuit of clearly defined goals. Ideally, make the protagonist the audience member or someone with whom your audience will identify.

2. Whats the hook?

Want to draw in listeners? Begin the story where the audience is. This is your storys hook the description of a place, circumstance, or premise that everyone understands and with which they readily identify.

3. Have you kept it interesting?

Predictable stories and predictable radio commercials are boring. If the audience members get bored, theyre gone. Have your characters change or evolve during the commercial. Let your dialogue demonstrate the transitions. Dont describe them.

4. Wheres the conflict?
There is no drama without conflict or contrast, and comedy, for that matter, also falls flat without it. Unfortunately, most ads have no conflict, and lose listeners.

5. Have you included telling details?
Good stories have enough detail in the music, sound effects, dialogue, and delivery to set the scene and bring life to the commercial. Specifics are more powerful than generalities.

6. Whats the emotional hook?
What emotional need(s) does the advertiser solve for the listener?

Your audience subconsciously enters into a contract with the storyteller. They want an emotional experience that makes their time worthwhile. An emotional story will imprint more strongly in the listeners memory.

7. Is the meaning clear?

Finally, your story should have a crystal clear reason for taking this particular journey. Listeners dont need more information, they need to know what it means. Your commercial story should make listeners feel like they fit in there somewhere and make it clear what they can do to benefit.

Wouldnt it be nice if you could apply seven questions and find focus in your life? Thankfully, you can at least do it with your radio commercials.

Jeffrey Hedquist has used these questions to find focus in commercials and in life at Hedquist Productions, Inc. Got a question, challenge or comment about commercial creative? Email