Wissame Cherfi | The Power of Storytelling
Filmmaker based near Geneva available anywhere in the world for projects.
emotions, connecting, narrative transportation, mirror neurone, hormonal reaction, process, storytelling, scientific approach, storytellers, good story, video, video making, content creation, video, three steps process, pre-production, production post-production
page-template-default,page,page-id-24459,,select-theme-ver-3.8.1, vertical_menu_transparency vertical_menu_transparency_on,fs-menu-animation-underline,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.1.1,vc_responsive

Do you know what separates a story like there are thousands and a story that will emotionally move your audience? The answer is in this article.

Written by Wissame Cherfi | 6 min read

Storytelling is the art of telling captivating stories. Not only captivating, but one that will carry your audience, immerse and overwhelm, while losing sense of time and space. This article is not a magic potion, but an introduction with scientific explanations of the phenomenon that occurs when watching a captivating story.

The day my father told me a powerful story.


I was 15 years old and I was in the middle of teenagehood… I had ‘friends’ who seemed to have a negative influence on me. And this, my father smelled it kilometers away. So he decided to tell me a very specific story that would change my life forever – I’ll tell you very soon if everything goes well, it is in writing … –

A few years later, I understood the power of what he had just done. Not only to this day, I remember the story by heart – he only told it to me once – but I remember exactly where we were. This is how poweful his storytelling was on me. I was literally transported to the scene, nothing else mattered around me.

I have been making videos since 2012 and I always felt there was some kind of scientific explanation for the way people would connect and respond to the stories I was telling. I was knicknamed ‘tearjerker’ for my ability to tell very touching stories. I was not following any strategy when making a video, following only my intuition.

In 2014, I decided to research and understand the way human beings perceive, connect and react to stories. This, below, is my intent to sum up some of the main elements I have learned through the years. You will also find the sources at the end of the article. I am not trying to reinvent the wheel, just to explain to you how I adapted these scientific facts onto my working process.

The science behind “good storytelling”.

Patrick Moreau, from Muse Storytelling, explains it in three points:

Narrative Transportation

Think of it just like travelling, mentally leaving where you’re at and going to the world and space of the story. The more transported you are, the more your physical surroundings disappear. You’re fully immersed in the story, no longer feeling the lights, sounds, and distractions around you.

The more transported you are into the story, the more you’re likely to take on the beliefs and actions you see within that story.

The Mirror Neuron

This neuron is a special type of brain cell that responds when we see somebody else performing an action in a way that mirrors that activity as if we were doing it ourselves. This cell is activated when we are telling a story the viewer can relate to.

 Hormonal effects

When the viewer is transported and immersed in the story, there is a series of hormones that are secreted depending on the emotions.

Dopamine = Effects on Focus, Motivation, Memory pushed by suspense and cliff-hangers.
Oxytocin = Trust, Bond, Generosity pushed by empathy
Endorphin = Focus, Motivation pushed by Laugh

The most effective form of human communication.

Here’s what that means for a story: if your story shows a character who is really emotional, the audience is more likely to respond in a way that mirrors that emotion, and they too can experience it. Of course, not everybody responds the same way to everything they see. The more transported into the story you are, and the more connected to the character you are, the more likely you are to experience the same high and low emotional states you’re seeing on screen.

”Stories drive emotions. Emotions drive actions.”

Rather than directing our behaviour, the story lets us witness the experience of somebody else, and in being transported into the world of that story, we have the opportunity to come to our own thoughts, beliefs, and conclusions.
The story allows us to take our audience on a journey— one that swallows them up, sends them spinning, and leaves them altogether changed.

It’s more important than ever that we understand story, and its abilities, if we wish to truly connect to the hearts and minds of those we need to reach. And the most beautiful part of sharing experiences in this structure we call story is that through stories, we may realize that we’re all not as different as we might have imagined. We can gain tolerance, understanding, and unity.

Sources for this article:
David JP Philips, The Magical Science of Storytelling (https://bit.ly/2t7NEbz)
– Chimamanda Adichie TED’ speech (https://bit.ly/1l2iMmm)
– ‘The Story of Story’, by Patrick Moreau (https://bit.ly/2IwZAki)
– Leo Widrich (http://bit.ly/19eZqX7)
– Joseph Campbell (The Hero with a Thousand Faces)
– Andrew Stanton – 2 + 2 instead of 4 (https://bit.ly/1gWKTim)
– Muse Storytelling (https://bit.ly/2SUVC9S)
– Annie Neimand, Ph.D. (https://bit.ly/2m22ylU)

If you would like me to tell your story, please do not hesitate to get in touch so we can start discussing your strategy.