Storytelling: the llama and the picnic

I bought my three-year-old daughter a storytelling game for Christmas. In the box, there are six dice, each face illustrated with a different picture. To play the game, you roll a die and incorporate the picture that’s rolled to tell the next part of the story.

The game has already conjured up some fascinating tales, but working in a content marketing agency – and being an amateur fiction writer – I was initially tempted to give my daughter some extra advice on how to build suspense, or why it’s often good to show, not tell.

And yet perhaps it was a little too early for her to start learning about the classic three-act structure or study examples of foreshadowing.

So, I said nothing. And, as I watched and listened, I became amazed by her natural instinct to tell a good story. Without being told any theory, she confidently rolled the first die, opened with a strong introduction to the central character (a llama, in case you were wondering), a sense of quest (being taken on a picnic in a car) and mounting tensions and challenges (it started to rain).

We took our turns, and soon my daughter’s llama developed a personality. By the end, the llama had overcome various obstacles on its journey and faced its fear of the rain to enjoy a wonderful picnic. No need for me to explain character arcs, then.

Even before our earliest memories are formed, we begin to understand the concept of storytelling. Its form and structure are everywhere, built into our culture and the way we communicate. It’s about how we see ourselves and our place in the world. It’s about forming our own identities. Little wonder that storytelling is such an effective content marketing technique.

If you want someone to help you understand how it works, ask my daughter. (Or CPL).

Helen Coston
is senior associate - business development
at CPL

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