21 Compelling Storytelling Formulas That Work Every Time

Narrative and storytelling are some of the most powerful tools for communicating your message. We’ve all heard about how an image is worth a thousand words. 

Well, according to recent studies, just one minute of video equals 1.8 million written words an astonishing increase in raw storytelling power that’s incredible to think about. But what if you’re not a videographer? 

What if you’re a writer or content creator who wants to capture something of this unbridled narrative power without becoming a one-person filmmaking studio? 

You can still tell stories with the written word but in ways that are more powerful than before. It’s just a matter of knowing which formulas will elicit the desired response from your reader or audience:

Three Story Telling Tips (Story Formula)
Key Takeaways
1. Discover 21 effective storytelling formulas for consistent success.
2. Learn how to engage your audience through compelling narratives.
3. Understand the power of storytelling in conveying messages effectively.
4. Explore techniques to create emotional connections with your readers.
5. Gain insights into crafting stories that resonate and leave a lasting impact.
6. Experiment with different storytelling approaches for diverse content.
7. Elevate your content by incorporating proven storytelling strategies.
8. Master the art of captivating your audience’s attention from the start.
9. Implement storytelling formulas to enhance your communication skills.
10. Apply these techniques to various contexts, from marketing to personal writing.

1. The Rule Of 25

The rule of 25 is a simple formula that helps you determine how long your story should be. It’s based on the idea that people are more likely to remember a story if it’s short and sweet,

So instead of trying to fit too much information into one place, use this formula to make sure everything stays concise.

According to researchers at the University of California Los Angeles, stories are most effective when they’re between 18 and 25 words long (which translates into about 2-3 minutes).

 If you find yourself with more than 25 words worth of content for your next project or presentation, think about whether or not some of those ideas could be combined with other stories or illustrated in another way.

This will help keep the pace moving quickly so that people will stay engaged throughout their entire time listening/reading/watching whatever it is you’re working on!

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2. The Trolley Problem


Explain the problem. What is the situation? Who are you talking about? What are their feelings, emotions and thoughts?

Explain the decision. What does this person do when confronted with a difficult decision or problem? Do they make an informed choice or act out of impulse? How does that affect others around them?

Explain the solution. How did they get out of this difficult situation (or avoid it altogether)? Was it easy for them to make this decision, or did they have to struggle with their choice before taking action?

Outcome: This is where you wrap up your story and tell what happened as a result of your protagonist’s actions were there consequences for their actions that were unexpected or surprising in some way? 

Or were there positive results from making a difficult choice even though it meant putting themselves at risk in some way?

Moral: This is where you sum up exactly what you want your audience to take away from your story are there any lessons here that relate directly back to real-life experiences people might go through themselves someday down the road.

Such as “If something seems too good to be true then chances are good that it isn’t true at all; beware of false advertising!” 

A moral doesn’t have to be explicit but rather implied through other elements like tone/style/etcetera within the text itself; 

However, if writing specifically educational content then consider using this section explicitly instead as part of overall lesson plan structure model used throughout the entire piece (check out https://www.”

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3. The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey is one of the most common story structures in use today. It’s also one of the oldest and best-known, having been used in countless tales across cultures throughout history. 

While there are many variations on this particular formula, they all follow a set path that can be summarized as follows:

  • The hero receives a call to adventure (motivation)
  • The hero refuses the call (refusal)
  • The hero is forced into the adventure (contrast)
  • The hero crosses a threshold and enters an unfamiliar world where he or she must battle powerful forces (challenge/hero’s journey)
  • While in this strange land, he encounters allies who help him on his quest (allies). Some will betray him later on when things get tough!

They’re not real friends! Be wary! Better yet… don’t trust anyone… ever! You never know when someone will stab you in your back. 

You might even wake up one day surrounded by people whom you thought were your friends just days before but now realize they were just pretending to care about you so they could get something from you like money or power or access to information that would make them more powerful than they already were…

4. The Problem-Solution Sequence

The Problem-Solution Sequence is a tried and true formula for storytelling. It’s a great way to teach people how to solve problems or provide them with the information they need to come up with their solutions.

The Problem-Solution Sequence starts with a problem that needs solving, which you then explain in detail. Next, you offer an explanation of what causes this problem and why it needs solving (i.e., “here’s why we have rats”). 

Then you present your solution as an alternative way of thinking about or doing something that doesn’t involve any rats (i.e., “here are some ways people have dealt with rats in the past”). 

After this comes to another detailed explanation of how the solution works (i.e., “this is how they managed to get rid of all their rats without killing them first).

Followed by another summary of why this method worked so well in every situation where it was used (i.e., “it worked 100% of times because these are methods that humans have been using throughout history). 

Finally, since there are always more ways than one to solve any given problem which means there’s always room for improvement.

Your final step should be explaining why other solutions might not work as well as yours does despite looking similar on paper (i.e., “these techniques might seem similar but there are differences between them).

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5. Rags To Riches

The rags to riches story are one of the most common formulas in storytelling. It is popular because it appeals to the human yearning for hope, and illustrates how a character can overcome adversity through hard work.

It also shows that you don’t need money or status to be happy you just need to follow your dream, no matter how far-fetched it seems at first glance.

This type of story works well for motivational purposes because it shows that anyone can achieve their goals if they put enough effort into them and never give up!

6. From Good To Bad To Deceased

This is a formula for tragedy. In this story arc, the character begins as a good person but then makes some bad choices that lead to their demise. 

We know from the start that this character will die, which creates tension and suspense throughout the story because we have no idea how it’ll happen.

One example is Macbeth by Shakespeare Macbeth starts as a loyal soldier but then murders King Duncan so he can become king himself (and thus fulfill his prophecy). 

After being crowned king, he goes through several cycles of guilt/revelation/self-destruction until he finally loses everything and dies.

7. The Heart Of The Story

The heart of the story is the emotional core of the story. It’s a phrase that can be applied to any type of storytelling fiction, nonfiction, film, television, and more.

The heart of your story is that part that makes you feel something. You may not have ever thought about it in this way before but it’s true! 

The heart of your story makes you feel something whether it’s sadness or happiness or anger or excitement whatever feeling your characters are experiencing at that moment in time.

Another way to say it: The heart of your story is where all those moments come together and create an emotional reaction from both reader/viewer and character alike.

8. Aristotle’s Storytelling Formula

Aristotle’s story formula is a three-act structure. In his Poetics, Aristotle breaks down an ideal play into acts and scenes, which he calls “numbers.” Each act has its beginning and end, but the beginning of one scene flows into the end of another scene to create a seamless whole.

The Greek philosopher describes three parts: beginning (proem), middle (narration), and end (catastrophe).

Beginning: The beginning sets up everything you need to know about your protagonist before they’re faced with conflict who they are, where they come from, what their goals in life are, and ends by showing them encountering something that will force them into motion.

Middle: This is where all the action happens; it’s where your character overcomes obstacles on their way toward achieving their goal(s). 

Endings don’t always have happy outcomes but if yours does, look at how much more satisfying it feels because we were able to follow along as they achieved success!

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9. The Cliffhanger

The cliffhanger is one of the most effective ways to keep your audience engaged in your story. It’s a plot device in which a character confronts an obstacle, and then tension builds as they struggle to resolve it. 

The resolution comes at the end of the chapter or scene, leaving the reader wanting more so they can find out what happens next.

The cliffhanger can be used at any point in your story whether it’s early on when introducing characters or later when revealing twists and turns that keep readers guessing until they conclude.

10. The Three-Act Structure

The three-act story structure is a tried and true formula that has been used in countless stories, from novels to plays to films. It can help you figure out the arc of your story, so you’ll know where it’s headed and how it will end.

The three acts are:

  • The beginning (Act 1)
  • The middle (Act 2)
  • The end (Act 3)

In each act, there are again two parts: rising action and falling action. Each act has its mini-climax at its peak point in the falling action section; this is what makes your audience want more! 

If you’re writing a screenplay or novel, this will likely be where your protagonist makes their biggest decision or changes their thinking about what they were doing before their life may even be put in jeopardy here! 

In other words, everything changes after this point until we get back into Act 2 with rising action once again leading up towards another epic moment…and then repeating until we reach the satisfying conclusion of our story.

The denouement (literally meaning “dénouement”), means “untying” things as neatly as possible for us all as readers/audience members who’ve been on this journey with these characters along with us!

11. A Fish Out Of Water

A fish out of water is a character who is unfamiliar with a situation or environment. The fish out of water can take many forms, but it’s often the protagonist of these stories and functions as the only one who can solve the problem.

A few examples of this formula include:

Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead, a cop from Washington state who wakes up from a coma to find himself among zombies in Georgia. He has no idea what’s happening, so he must learn everything as he goes along including how to survive any given situation by killing zombies.

Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace follow five aristocratic families during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. 

While some characters try to maintain their wealth and status quo throughout the narrative, others are forced into new roles (like Pierre Bezukhov becoming Prince Bolkonsky) that give them more agency within society than they otherwise would have had if they’d stayed at home on their estates all day long instead!

And finally…you guessed it…The Lion King! Simba spends years living with his pride when Mufasa dies unexpectedly; 

Then his uncle Scar takes over as king after murdering Mufasa so that Simba won’t become king himself when he grows older should anything happen to Scar first.”

12. The Solution To A Mystery

The solution to a mystery is the most important part of any mystery story and one that can be executed in many ways. One way is to provide the solution as a twist, which means revealing that something unexpected has happened. For example:

  • The detective solves the case by revealing what happened at the end of his investigation.
  • The detective reveals who committed murder or another crime before he reveals how they did it (or why).
  • The suspect unexpectedly confesses their guilt before they reveal why they did it (or who else might have been involved).

13. Antithesis And Juxtaposition

To create a powerful story, you must use antithesis and juxtaposition. Antithesis is the process of juxtaposing two opposing ideas to highlight their differences. 

For example, if you were writing an essay about how humans are superior to all other animals, your thesis could be “Humans are superior because they have opposable thumbs.” 

The antithesis would then be a statement that contradicts this thesis: “Humans are not superior because we don’t have claws or fangs.”

Juxtaposition is the process of placing two or more elements side by side to highlight their similarities and differences. For example, consider these two sentences: “My husband was kind and gentle.” “My husband was cruel and abusive.” 

These sentences describe the same person but they present very contrasting views of his personality one positive and one negative – thus illustrating the concept of juxtaposition through contrastive language.

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14. Morality Tales And Fables

Morality tales are stories that convey a lesson about right and wrong in the form of a fable or parable. They often feature animals, but they can also be about people and their actions. 

Their primary purpose is to teach something valuable and timeless, like “don’t trust strangers” or “work hard for what you want”.

Morality tales are usually short, with just one main plot point (the moral), so they’re easy to remember and pass on. 

Most were written by well-known authors such as Aesop, who wrote short stories called fables; these were popular because they taught lessons without being too preachy or long-winded.

These days, many examples of morality tales include both children’s books (like Aesop’s Fables) as well as movies (such as Bambi).

15. A Dreadful Situation Grows Worse And Worse Until Death Is Upon Us All

This is a classic storytelling formula that works every time. It’s the same structure you’ll find in most horror movies: tension and suspense, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

The setup is simple: Someone finds themselves in danger or under duress; things get worse; death is upon us all. 

The hero(ine) must then find a way out by any means necessary and probably save the world in the process! 

This formula can be used for any genre from mystery to romance to sci-fi/fantasy adventure and it’s not just for stories without negative consequences; it works equally well with tragedies where terrible things happen to people we love.

16. Avoiding Closure Or The Story Of My Life

This is a story about a man who is unhappy with his life. He’s stuck in a rut, afraid to take risks. The story of my life is about this man and his journey out of the rut that he’s been stuck in for years.

The first step was for him to realize that there was more to life than what he’d been doing every day for decades—more meaning, more excitement, more connection with other people through shared experiences and ideas.

That realization led him to begin making changes in his daily routine he started going out more often instead of staying home alone watching TV every night; 

He began volunteering at community events where people would come together just because they wanted to meet up face-to-face; he even started dating again after years without companionship! 

This guy had transformed himself into someone who could enjoy life once again by taking small steps forward each day rather than staying put where things were comfortable but unchallenging at best (and miserable at worst).

17. Surprise Ending And Twist Ending Stories

Surprise endings and twist endings are great for storytelling. Surprise endings are unexpected, while twist endings can be both surprising and expected. In the end, it’s best to use these techniques sparingly, so that your audience doesn’t start guessing what might happen next.

A surprise ending stories: Surprise ending stories have no foreshadowing of the final plot point or conclusion. 

The writer introduces an element at the very end of the story that has nothing to do with where you’ve been until then and yet it makes perfect sense in light of everything else you know about that character or event! 

These kinds of tales can easily be used to make a point, or just leave your readers thinking about something new after reading them. 

Twist ending stories: Twist ending stories include some kind of foreshadowing but keep their secret until they’ve reached their logical conclusion; then BAM! 

You’re hit with something left-field a fact not mentioned before (or one that seems out of place), which turns understanding upside down when revealed.”

18. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

In this formula, your character makes a choice that is the wrong one. He or she then realizes it and makes another choice that seems right at first, but turns out to be just as wrong as the first. Finally, he or she makes a third choice and finds redemption through this decision.

This is a great way to show a character’s growth over time because it shows how they can learn from their mistakes and make better choices moving forward.

20. You Know What? You’re Not Crazy After All

People are often quick to jump to conclusions. This can be a problem when it comes to your story because the audience must see how wrong they were about something. So what do you do? You make your main character wrong about something, but not crazy!

To put it another way: “You know what? You’re not crazy after all.”

21. Separate But Equal

Separate But Equal is a story about how black people were treated differently than white people in the United States. It uses this concept to expose all of the ways that society was and still is unequal, not just regarding race but also gender, sexuality, religion, and disability.

The idea behind Separate But Equal is that there are two groups of people who want different things but can’t be together because they are separate. The main characters in your story must choose between one or both groups at some point during their journey through life.


Just like the best copywriting formulas, these 27 storytelling formulas will help you get your point across with the least amount of effort. You can use them to spice up your content and captivate your readers’ attention. 

But remember that this is just a starting point for getting ideas flowing. The most important thing is to keep writing and revising until you have something that feels right for your audience.

Further Reading

Explore these resources to deepen your understanding of copywriting formulas:

Copywriting Formulas: Proven Strategies for Success
Discover effective copywriting formulas and strategies to enhance your marketing efforts and drive conversions.

Copywriting Formulas: A Guide to Effective Writing
Learn how to leverage copywriting formulas to create compelling content that resonates with your audience and drives engagement.

Boost Conversions with These 10 Proven Copywriting Formulas
Uncover a set of proven copywriting formulas that can significantly improve your conversion rates and deliver better results.


How can copywriting formulas improve my writing?

Copywriting formulas provide structured frameworks that help you craft persuasive and engaging content, making it easier to connect with your audience and convey your message effectively.

Are there different types of copywriting formulas?

Yes, there are various types of copywriting formulas, each tailored to different purposes. Some focus on creating attention-grabbing headlines, while others guide you through crafting compelling calls to action.

Where can I find more resources on copywriting formulas?

You can explore online platforms, blogs, and articles that specialize in copywriting and marketing. Additionally, reputable marketing websites often offer in-depth guides and resources on copywriting formulas.

Can I customize copywriting formulas to my brand’s voice?

Absolutely! Copywriting formulas are versatile tools that can be adapted to align with your brand’s tone, style, and voice. Personalizing the formulas ensures consistency and authenticity in your messaging.

How do copywriting formulas impact conversion rates?

Copywriting formulas are designed to optimize your messaging for persuasion and engagement. By applying these formulas effectively, you can create content that resonates with your audience and drives higher conversion rates.