Storytelling Fundamentals from Hollywood Screenwriter Bobette Buster

Bobette Buster, Hollywood screenwriter and author of Do Story: How to Tell Your Story So The World Listens, has been hailed as “Hollywood’s Best Kept Secret.” Today she’s an in-demand story guru for studios like Pixar and Disney, but her storytelling education started long before she hit Tinseltown. Bobette grew up in small-town Kentucky—a region credited with producing legendary orators such as Abraham Lincoln and Muhammad Ali as well as the celebrated novelist Wendell Berry. According to her, everyone from the shopkeeper to the pastor, could keep you spellbound, teaching Bobette at a young age: Everyone has a story to tell. The challenge is learning how to tell it well.

A great story, Bobette says, should ask a question that is audacious and personal at the same time. The Best Picture-winning film Argo is a high-stakes Cold War spy drama, but at its core asks a relatable question: “What’s the best bad idea you can come up with in a difficult situation?” The 2015 Oscar contender The Big Short takes on the complicated, arcane subject matter surrounding the 2008 financial recession, but brings the story to life by filtering the topic through the personal lens of a few counter-thinking traders.

Finding and refining that personal lens for the story can take a long time, and it means storytellers have to be willing to make themselves vulnerable to their audience. Bobette advises that you should “tell your story as if to a friend” to help it feel relatable. “The audience is looking to connect with you,” she explains, and if you tell your story in an authentic way, they will gladly follow along.

Great storytellers always listen to how their story is connecting to the audience. They remember the first time they laughed or felt an emotional punch—and then they work hard to orchestrate those emotions in their story so that they always land,” Bobette says. It’s easy to see the throughline in this philosophy in the work of  the expansive oral storytellers of Bobette’s youth to the Pixar maestros she works with today: All of them keep audience reaction at the forefront of their art and endlessly refine their narratives until they’ve found the perfect rhythm. The best stories should feel like something greater than the sum of their parts and create an emotional experience that transcends description. “At the end of a great movie, you tell your friends they have to see it,” Bobette says. “And you can’t articulate why, but you know you want to experience it again.”

Description: The Future of StoryTelling (FoST) is an annual summit and creative community dedicated to exploring how stories are evolving in the digital age.

The Age of Purpose: Corporate Coach Jordan Bower on Why Brands Need to Get Intimate


Jordan Bower (seated) leading a workshop at the 2015 Future of StoryTelling Summit

Even if you’re just running out to grab a coffee or taking a quick trip around the block, going for a walk can provide that perfect state of stimulated nothingness that allows the mind to wander freely. Corporate coach Jordan Bower went for a walk when he needed to think, but he went farther than the average coffee run. After an abrupt breakup with a girlfriend, he hit the road and traveled on foot from Canada to Mexico.

By the time Bower completed the journey, he had formulated a simple piece of advice to help people and brands communicate better: “Get intimate.” These days, Bower offers training in “Corporate Intimacy,” and teaches brands how to tell better stories by emphasizing the intimate qualities of human relationships in their narratives, like trust, honesty, and vulnerability.

“The data clearly demonstrates that emotionally engaging stories are more impactful, more memorable, and receive greater audience engagement,” Bower explains. “But brands often lack a deep understanding of what emotional language means and feels like. The result is campaigns that use the language of emotions, without the feeling of emotions.” He cites Coca-Cola’s new rebrand, which uses the tagline “Taste the Feeling,” as an example of a brand reaching for emotional connection without intimately engaging with their audience. “It’s like the brand agency built the campaign by picking the most hashtagged words off of Instagram,” he says. “Rather than bringing a sense of connection, the campaign may seem inauthentic.”

Brands can resolve this gap by following one of the most important storytelling maxims: show, don’t tell. “Rather than telling audiences that your product makes them feel ‘happy’ (for example), give them the feeling of happiness,” Bower advises. “Campaigns will resonate more deeply when brands further develop their own emotional language. Does your product make people feel happy or satisfied or fulfilled? Or optimistic or joyful or confident? Or capable or supported or at ease? Each of these words represents slightly different emotional experiences within us as people, and resonates slightly differently within audiences as a result.”

age of purpose

Bower teaches that great storytelling is based on the intensity of the emotional relationship between storyteller and the audience. He compares this deeper emotional language to the color spectrum: “Any young child knows there are seven colors—the colors of the rainbow. But every designer knows there are tens of thousands of colors, and just one is perfect for your logo. Happy, sad, angry, love, and fear are the primary colors of emotion, but we need to deepen our own emotional experiences to paint stories more vividly.”

A brand’s emotional resonance can translate to internal audiences as well. “Future jobs will depend on the skills humans possess that computers don’t: creativity, collaboration, compassion, empathy. These skills are demonstrably heightened in environments where employees feel trusted, nurtured, and understood,” he explains. Brands can use emotional storytelling to inspire creativity, productivity, and action.

This sensitivity for emotional storytelling has stayed with Bower ever since his walk from Canada to Mexico, during which he challenged himself to genuinely connect with every person he met. The trip gave him a sense of purpose that he now encourages brands to discover in their own stories. “We’re clearly entering an age of purpose,” he says. “Brands are turning their attention to their place in the world, and the good they can build through their products and services.” Every brand’s story has the potential to resonate with heads as well as hearts. Future audiences will demand intimacy.

creativity collaboration compassion empathy


The Future of StoryTelling (FoST) is an annual summit and creative community dedicated to exploring how stories are evolving in the digital age

5 Ways to Use SEO Effectively in Social Media

seo for social media
Most business owners and managers now know that search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial component of any website. Used to improve rankings on major search engines and help potential clients and customers find your website, SEO can also be implemented on social media platforms to great effect.

Think of it as using another type of lure to catch more fish — SEO combined with social media can give you a distinctive edge over your competitors when utilized properly. Below are five ways you can use it to improve Internet visibility and attract more consumers to your website.
1. Profile Pages

Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all allow you to customize a profile page that provides details about your company. This page is a prime opportunity to use SEO. Using prime keywords and key phrases makes it easy for others to find you using relevant search terms. SEO on your Facebook page also helps it rank on major search engines.

2. Facebook Posts

Individual Facebook posts are also indexed by search engines (provided your page is public). Posting about your products or services, or relevant industry-related information, is a great way to utilize additional keywords and key phrases.

Consumers might not necessarily be searching for your particular company, but if they search for keywords related to a product or service you talk about, your post may come up in the search results.

3. Twitter Hashtags

Hashtags can be used in blog posts, Facebook posts and, of course, tweets. While you wouldn’t ordinarily think of a hashtag as SEO, it works pretty much the same — helping those interested in what you are talking about find your posts as well as share them with others.

4. Outbound Links

When you place links to your website or landing page on any social media platform, try to use SEO. For example, don’t just create a link labeled “my website.” Use your company name if it is keyword-rich, such as “Tom’s Bait and Tackle Supply,” or use keywords such as “discount beauty supply.” Outbound links also help improve your website’s rank.

5. Pinterest

Not many businesses currently use Pinterest, but those that do have realized that the platform offers great advantages for marketing. Searchable, shareable, and indexed by Google and other major search engines, Pinterest posts yet are another opportunity to use keywords and provide keyword-rich links back to landing pages on your website.

Of course, there are many other ways to use SEO on various social media platforms, but the above suggestions are a fantastic start to improving any social media campaign.



4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing a Video Script

questiosn to ask
Slick animation, smooth transitions, professional-looking themes—these are all important elements of polished online videos. But what makes visual media really shine is a strong, concise message, told in a way only your unique perspective and voice can. Whether you’re telling a personal story, creating a fundraising pitch, or teaching potential customers about your business, videos—and stories in general—are most memorable when they have a core message, a “so what” moment. The difference between having a clear, succinct point is often the difference between viewers who take action after watching and viewers who click out half way into the video because they don’t know what they’re supposed to be getting out of it. That’s, of course, easier said than done. Ideating and distilling your ideas into a simple “so what” sentence is a winding road. And the writing process can often feel like this:

creative processjpg

Fortunately there are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you coast through or skip steps two through four altogether. Doing this thinking up front will save you time editing and rewriting and will help make decisions, such as which theme or font to use, easier because each little choice will be in support of your core message.  We suggest physically writing answers to these four questions before diving into the script or pressing record on your iPhone or iPad screen.

  • Who am I talking to?
    Identify who your audience is and much will fall into place such as word choice, mood, and tone. Not only is it helpful to decide who you’re trying to reach in terms of demographics like age, interests, or gender, but it’s also important to know how you address your audience, if at all. Personal stories or fiction narratives might use “I” and never break the 4th wall, or acknowledge the audience. But if you’re presenting an idea or trying to reach customers or potential donors, we recommend using the friendly, singular “you” as if you’re addressing just one friend. This tone lends a personal, friendly quality that people connect with.
  • How do I want them to feel? 
    It’s easy to get caught up in imagery, plot points, or other details, but those decisions will be easier to make if you have an idea of what tone you want to hit. Do you want viewers to feel inspired? Energetic? Happy? Scared? Do you want to inform or surprise? Decide on mood and you’ll definitely have an easier time choosing between a playful soundtrack such as  “Whistle Away” or one that’s more serious and thoughtful, like “Western Sage.”
  • What do I want viewers to walk away thinking or doing
    Often people make videos to teach, persuade, or inspire action. You might have a few different goals for your business, cause, or brand, but it’s important to pick just one thing you want your viewers to do or know so as not to overwhelm them. Goals might be: “donate to my Kickstarter,” “support my cause,” “book an informational session,” “understand an idea I have.” Whatever your goal is, each decision and slide in your Adobe Voice video should work toward that goal in some way. If it doesn’t, that likely means you need to cut it or refocus that piece of the project. If you have multiple goals, try making multiple videos and see which one works best!
  • Why is this significant?
    Perhaps the most important question of all, this exercise forces you to figure out the significance and emotional elements in your story. As we recently discussed, every good story has emotional triggers and stakes. For a message to be powerful for anyone else, it first has to resonate with you.

For inspiration take a look at these three examples. Each video has a consistent tone, clear audience or target, and most importantly a succinct take-away for viewers.

A filmmaker explains how an artist impacts her work and creative process. Though this story winds and turns in unexpected ways, viewers are left with a solid idea of why this particular work is important to the artist. Her snappy, meaningful last line hammers home her point.

A six-year-old Girl Scout sells cookies to her community. This little saleswoman is a natural–she includes a personal introduction, explains why someone should buy cookies from her, and offers clear call-to-action for viewers. Cuteness always helps too!

In this video, corporate coach Chris Williams takes a friendly tone and uses a personal story to set up a problem. Then, most importantly, he offers a solution and gives viewers a first step to solving this common problem.

While distilling your message can require critical thought and hard work, know that once you’ve gotten something on the page, making it stand out is the easy part!


What the First 10 Minutes of “Up” Can Teach You About Making Better Online Videos


Whether you’re crafting a story for story’s sake or making a video to support your business or cause, using the basic tenets of storytelling adds emotional components that are integral to getting viewers to care as much as you do—or at least watch all the way through.

In a recent content workshop at Adobe HQ petitioners gathered to create videos about their cause using Adobe Voice.’s senior producer Christina Frenzel kicked off the workshop by showing a clip of Disney Pixar’s award-winning animated film Up. Nominated for best motion picture and best screenplay, this tearjerker has loads of universal appeal and dazzling visuals, but many point to the first ten minutes, which act as a story-within-a-stroy, as a shining example of how to quickly draw viewers in. It certainly has the classic components of storytelling, which Frenzel and most screenwriters define as: structure, character, and stakes.

Take a few minutes to watch the beginning and see if you can spot these three basic elements.

Classic story structure follows the journey of someone who wants something badly but has trouble getting it. Screenwriter Robert Ben Garant (known for Night at the Museum) sums up this same principle in three acts, present in most stories:

  • Act I: Put your main character up in a tree.
  • Act II: Throw rocks at him.
  • Act III: Get him down

In the case of Up, audiences immediately know what these characters want (to get to Paradise Falls), but very quickly in a montage, we see life starts getting in the way:


At the core of every good story are characters that viewers can relate to. Frenzel recommends showing characters that aren’t just struggling, but are seeking solutions. Characters who work toward goals against the odds invoke empathy from viewers, which inspires audiences to stick around long enough to see how it works out for them.

For more on character development, Critical Hit has an interesting discussion on how to pinpoint characters’ motivations and desires, using the same Up example:


It’s not enough to have characters that want something badly; viewers need to have a sense of what will happen if they don’t get it. Here the stakes are raised as we see Carl and Ellie age and grow weaker. Viewers experience the same sense of regret and loss that Carl and Ellie do for not accomplishing their dream.

What this means for you:
Before writing a script, it’s helpful to identify these key aspects of story, ignoring for a moment your business goals—increased sales, page views, or more signatures on a petition. That can come later. First, start at the theme level and ask yourself: What do I want my viewers to feel when watching this video?

Then delve into establishing the who, what, and why of your story: Who is the main character in your video?  What do they want? How are they trying to get it? What’s in their way? And what will happen if they don’t succeed?

Once you’ve written this down, capture your answers in one simple sentence. Distilling your message in one sentence will ensure every decision you make after will enforce your core message. Focusing on the emotional components—and there are emotional compononents in every cause or business—will help you craft a narrative that inspires viewers.

Introducing Adobe Voice for iPhone!

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 10.46.42 AM

If there’s one request we’ve heard loud and clear from the Voice community over the past year, it’s this: MORE VOICE! While the iPad has been a fantastic platform to tell and share stories with the world, not everyone has immediate access to one. Many of you may be arguing with co-workers, fellow students, friends, or family to get your hands on a shared iPad so you can tell one more Voice story. Rumor has it, some of you may not even have access to an iPad at all and are missing out from using Voice entirely.

It pained us to hear how much strife and discord was taking place due to Voice being limited to the iPad. Stories should bring us together, not divide us, right? So starting today, we’re extremely excited to announce that the award winning Adobe Voice is now available on the iPhone as well! And as always, it’s free. No need to fight over a device. Take a deep breath, give your coworker a hug, give the iPad back to your sister, and simply pick up your iPhone.

Haven’t had a chance to use Adobe Voice yet? We’ve put 30 years of Adobe’s animation and cinematography experience into a simple, fun, easy-to-use video storytelling app, allowing anyone—regardless of experience—to create compelling videos and share them instantly with the world.

To get started, simply download Adobe Voice for iPhone from the app store. All your iPhone and iPad projects automatically sync, so you can work on your videos whenever inspiration strikes.

Not just an editor’s favorite with an App Store Best of 2014 award, Adobe Voice has had more than 3.5 Million iPad downloads since its launch.

So head on over to the app store to start telling your story. Isn’t peace and harmony wonderful?

Ely Greenfield
Adobe Voice

The Nicholas Sparks Guide to Writing Successful Stories


Internationally best selling novelist and screenwriter Nicholas Sparks has heartstring plucking down to a science. His romantic formula has brought us love stories such as Message in a BottleA Walk to RememberDear John, The Notebook, and a bunch of other movies that made you inexplicably get things stuck in your eye. Whether you love or despise the genre, there’s no denying Sparks knows how to tell a universal, deeply emotional (and wildly successful) story. Here are seven pieces of his storytelling wisdom that transcend the romance genre and offer a framework for making timeless stories your own:

The Nicholas Sparks Golden Rule for Successful Stories: “A story needs to be three things: interesting, original, and universal. That goes to the theme of the story, the journeys of the characters, but also the specific elements in the book…It’s easy to do two of those three. Original and interesting, and you get Hannibal Lector. But he’s not universal.”

On Conceptualizing the Themes: “It’s always love and something. You can have love and mystery, love and forgiveness, love and loss, love and danger…each of my stories follows that formula. You can’t just have love, but you also don’t want to try to do too much.”

On How to Appeal to EVERYONE: “The age of the characters is the first thing I make a decision about in any novel. What age group are the main characters that fall in love? I try to vary it from book to book because most people like to read about people they relate to, right? I look back on my past.  I said, ‘Well, I had The Last Song, and that’s teenagers.  I had Dear John.  They’re in their 20s. But, then I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, where’s my middle-aged people?’  So, here comes The Best of Me characters in their 40s and 50s.

“And so, then what you do is say, ‘Ah, but everyone wants to enjoy these.’  So, that’s where the ‘B’ story comes in: In my teenage story, I also make it a father-daughter story.  And in my 40- and 50-year-old story, they have a love story as teenagers.

“So, believe me, all of that is done purposefully to keep everybody happy.”

 On Developing Characters You Fall in Love With: “What you want is someone that you feel like could be your brother, your sister, your kids, your neighbor, your friend from college, your friend from high school, someone that you know and like, someone that you work with, right? Because the simple fact is that nobody walks around being perfect. And so you don’t want to create a character that’s absolutely perfect. They have to have flaws.  And yet, for the most part, most of my characters are created with my own worldview: I think that 80 percent of the people 80 percent of the time try to do the right thing… Everyone makes mistakes.  But, I tend to see the glass half-full when it comes to humanity.”

On Turning Novels into Movies: “A novel is a story told with words.  A film is a story told with pictures.

“I’ve written both screenplays and novels and it’s a different thinking. [With movies,] it’s the picture first.  And if you have a scene of introspection that you can’t capture in a quick picture, sometimes you have to invent things or put things in or take things out that were in the novel to make it work.  That’s just the nature of it.”

On Getting it on the Page: “When I sit down to write—and it’s not everyday—but when I actually sit down to write, it’s 2,000 words. Any more than that, I find, and the writing gets poor.  Anything less than that, and I lose the pacing of the novel. So, how many days is that?  Well, let’s say it takes me 150,000 words to get the 100,000 I’m going to keep and I’m editing as I go, take out a paragraph here and there.  So, that’s 75 days of writing.”

Final Words of Wisdom: “Make it original. Make it original. Make it original.”

12 Books Every Solo Entrepreneur Should Read

Running your own business can often feel like a lonely endeavor, especially when you’re just starting out. But this crop of actionable and inspiring books can help smooth out the road to success. These 12 books should be on any entrepreneur’s reading list–think of them as your cabinet of experts.

leadership is an art

  1. Leadership Is an Art,” by Max DePree. This articulate and evocative book explores the responsibilities of leadership from the perspective of the successful CEO of Herman Miller.The-Greatness-Guide_LRG
  2. The Greatness Guide,” by Robin Sharma. Dive into 101 actionable and easily digested tips for becoming a better business to win friends
  3. How to Win Friends & Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie. Networking and relationship building are important life tools that apply directly to business.the speed of trust
  4. The Speed of Trust,” by Steven M.R. Covey and Rebecca R. Merrill. Learn why and how ethics in business lead to bigger profit margins.entrepreneur to big fish
  5. From Entrepreneur to Big Fish: 7 Principles to Wild Success,” by Lorin D. Beller. Get tips and actionable advice on how to get away from the day-to-day and back to big-picture plans.e-myth
  6. The E-Myth Revisited,” by Michael E. Gerber. Success in business is all about building systems that can expand and processes that work. This book demystifies systems and processes, helping you find time for executive-level tasks.four hour workweek
  7. The 4-Hour Workweek,” by Timothy Ferriss. Learn to understand the value of your own time and outsource tasks that waste it.good-to-great-book-review
  8. Good to Great,” by Jim Collins. This book gives you some great tips for building the best team.Googled,_The_End_of_the_World_As_We_Know_It_cover_page
  9. Googled: The End of the World as We Know It,” by Ken Auletta. The indescribable success of a company like Google can only give you more insight into what it takes to reach the less make more
  10. Work Less, Make More,” by Jennifer White. Written by a renowned success coach, this book helps you get up and get started on the path to success in life and in business.effortless entrepreneur
  11. Effortless Entrepreneur,” by Nick Friedman and Omar Soliman. Systems let you work to make your company better while employees handle day-to-day tasks. Learn how these two multimillionaires implemented systems in their companies.reality check
  12. Reality Check,” by Guy Kawasaki. Get an insider’s guide to business from the Apple former chief evangelist.

Walt Disney’s Right-Hand Storyteller: Inside Mel Shaw’s Visual Development

Mel Shaw, concept art for Beauty and the Beast, c 1989

Mel Shaw, concept art for Beauty and the Beast, 1989

Before it was a sweeping shot of the African desert as seen from the eyes of a lion cub or a scary wood no place for a pretty peasant girl, prolific artist and storyteller Mel Shaw set the tone of Disney’s most famous scenes using nothing but his pastels, pencils, watercolor, and a few rough writing room ideas.

Shaw was Walt Disney’s right-hand visual developer–and often one of the first people to start making films such as Fantasia, Bambi, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and countless other projects come to life.

Mel Shaw, concept art for The Lion King, c 1992

Mel Shaw, concept art for The Lion King, c 1992

“He got people excited about the work by producing the first visuals,” says Academy Award®-nominated producer Don Hahn (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Maleficent) who curated the retrospective of Shaw’s life and work, now on display at San Francisco’s Walt Disney Family Museum.

“His work was rarely seen on the screen, but his ideas always were–and that’s much more valuable,” says Hahn, noting that details, such as the color of Snow White’s hair or the exact look of the Beast, evolved from the first sketches, but the mood, tone, and direction came from Shaw’s imagination.

"When other people would take a picture, Shaw would take out his sketchbook," according to Hahn. Shaw's travels to Africa influenced the landscape of The Lion King.

“When other people would take a picture, Shaw would take out his sketchbook,” according to Hahn. Shaw’s travels to Africa influenced the landscape of The Lion King.

For the first time, the public can see 120 pieces, including caricature sketches, murals, pottery, storyboards, and conceptual artwork the private, humble artist created over his vast career. (He held just one show and sold one painting despite creating hundreds of pieces.)

Not just showing his mastery of several art forms, the exhibit offers a priceless peak at a master storyteller’s process and the earliest renderings of some of the most influential films of the twentieth century.

The major takeaway? Prioritize narrative and everything will follow.

Mel Shaw, concept art for The Black Cauldron, c 1985

Mel Shaw, concept art for The Black Cauldron, c 1985

“At his core, Shaw was always about storytelling,” Hahn writes in the exhibit. “Subjects that might seem pedestrian to another artist–a restaurant design, a ski resort, a travel sketch, a toy–were always drawn with attention to characterization and underpinned with a love for narrative.” A sense of drama and movement pervades every piece on display, showing Shaw’s preoccupation with mythology and legend.

“”He was less concerned about rendering and technique–he was more about the narrative,” says Hahn. “He’d draw with pastels in one hand and a shop vac in the other.”

While a shop vac is likely less necessary these days in a time when technology makes art and storytelling less messy, anyone with a story brewing can learn from Shaw’s improvisational approach to visual development. His sketches focus on character and mood–the emotional elements and driving forces of a story. And just as importantly, he got things on the page, worrying about the details and technique later.

“If he was living and working today, he’d absolutely have an iPad with him at all times,” Hahn says, noting how Adobe Voice lets you do digitally what Shaw did by hand–capture early storyboarding drafts with images and bits of story. 

“He was the type of storyteller who you could give a few words, maybe a bit of a script or an outline, and he’d come back with the important stuff that would drive the story.”

See the artwork above and much more through September 12,  2016 at the Walt Disney Family Museum.

Images courtesy of The Walt Disney Animation Research Library, © Disney; and Rick and Janet Shaw and Melissa Couch, © Mel Shaw Studios.

Learn the 7 Principles of Design in Under 3 Minutes

principles of design

Like any art or craft, design comes with its own language and basic principles. Adobe Voice user Megan Kendall created the below video to explain the basic principles of design in quick definitions and corresponding images. Even if you’re just starting out, you’re likely already using some of these elements instinctually. However, arming yourself with these seven design words and their meanings will not only give you a common language with other designers and artists, but will help you identify which principles will best illustrate your story. Get a basic understanding of design principles in under three minutes by watching the Voice below.