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Us humans are all the same: We love personal connections, shared values, and Whoppers.

But when our viewpoints diverge (say, BK forbid, someone’s Team Big Mac), there’s a quick way to bring us back together again. Author Patti Digh said it best: “The shortest distance between two people is a story.”

And storytelling expert Patrick Moreau believes that to tell an impactful tale, we must first “speak to the heart to move the mind.”

“But how can we do that in a 30-second spot?!” you heckle from behind your computer screen, now hangry for the burger of your choice.

Well, I’m happy you asked! According to Muse’s Science of Storytelling process, every story, no matter the length, shares four distinct pillars: People, Places, Plot, and Purpose.


“People” is the first pillar because, well, people connect most with other people. No wonder Disney personified their most beloved animal protagonists with highly human expressions! By leading with people, your audience can connect with your characters on a deeper level.


Stories don’t take place in a vacuum. “Place” defines where and when our characters reside. Does your story take place on a misty morning in the outskirts of Los Angeles? Are your characters watching the sun rise over FirstEnergy Stadium? Can they even believe THE BROWNS WON A PLAYOFF GAME?!?! (Sorry, got sidetracked.) The point is: place can help set the tone and establish a mood.


Our story needs a pair of legs so it can go somewhere—and take the audience along for the ride. “Plot” provides structure, moves our hero’s journey along, and creates a trip that resolves in one sweet, satisfying ending. 


“Purpose” is the “why” behind your message. At surface level, the purpose of a 30-second ad may seem like selling more products. But as storytellers, we have a greater opportunity to create a real, human connection (that, you guessed it, will lead to longer-term sales) by conveying our story’s emotional purpose. We can lead with themes of love, anger, joy, acceptance, or even inspiration.

So this year, let’s communicate with our audiences in the ways they like best. By doing so, we’ll almost certainly change the entire course of humanity. Or you know, make really well-received work customers can’t wait to dig into. Wait…I’m thinking about burgers again.

Have a hero’s journey kind of weekend, everybody!

—Your plotting, purposeful friends at Brokaw

The shortest distance between two people is a story.

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