Watch many music videos and they typically tell a story of some kind. Some music videos can be vague but many others tell a simple story of a hero pining for a goal, facing obstacles, overcoming those obstacles, and finally achieving the goal. What’s most interesting about such music videos is that they can tell a complete story largely through visuals. Turn off the volume when playing a music video and you can see the story told in moving images, which is exactly how you need to tell a story.
Watch this Taylor Swift music video and you can clearly see the basic story structure. Taylor Swift plays a girl who wants a boy (her goal). Unfortunately, he’s dating a cheerleader. To communicate with the boy who lives next door, she writes signs and holds them up in the window. The boy responds, which makes for a far more interesting, visual way to communicate than simply talking.
After seeing this boy’s cheerleader girlfriend dump him at a football game, she watches him get dressed to go to a dance. Then she shows up at the dance to meet him. Not only do they happily greet each other, but they communicate their feelings by pulling out signs that they wanted to show each other.
This music video, like so many music videos, tells a simple story visually in an interesting manner. If a music video can tell a story in a few minutes, then you can apply those same techniques to your story telling with each scene. Think of some visually interesting way to get your story across and by focusing on that thought alone, you’ll likely create a far more interesting story.
Remember, it’s not enough to have a good story idea. You also need to tell that story well, and focusing on visual story telling techniques will go a long way towards helping make your screenplay visually stunning in the reader’s imagination.
If you want to see how pointless any video can be without a solid story behind it, watch this music video below that features Anna Nicole Smith. Despite her glamorous looks and the fancy setting that the video shows, there’s absolutely no story behind this video, which makes it completely boring and dull. Unlike Taylor Swift’s music video, this music video has little hint of conflict, no definite villain and hero, and no satisfying emotional conclusion, much like many fancy movies that rely on gunfire, explosions, and computer-generated special effects to dazzle the senses while neglecting to tell an interesting story behind it. This example of a bad music video with no story shows how you can create equally bad movies without a solid story as its foundation.
The lesson should be clear. A good story is easy to understand and follow, and provides clearcut heroes and villains with goals that the hero pursues and obstacles that the villain throws in the hero’s path until the hero finally achieves the desired goal in an emotionally satisfying conclusion. A bad story just shows interesting sights that have no purpose and fails to reach a unified conclusion at the end. Watch both videos with the audio turned off and see which one is more interesting to watch