Another 1.5 Minute Workshop on the Six Core Competencies

Storytelling.  It’s everywhere.

When it works, there are almost always six separate elements – essences, really – that are in play.  Sometimes you have to read a 400 page novel or sit through a two hour movie to witness this universal model at work.

Sometimes you can behold their collective, congealed power in a minute or so.  At the end of this post you’ll get that chance.

It’s never an accident or a convenience. 

It’s always an intention of the part of the writer.

Not long ago I shared a link to the television commercial that is shaking up the ad industry, not to mention selling a few million units of product (Old Spice body wash for men) that wouldn’t have otherwise made it off the shelf. 

It worked because it told a story, and it did so in a highly creative, compelling and original manner.

It had a concept.  A character.  A theme.  A structure. 

It had execution.  It had a voice.

Those are the six core competencies of storytelling. 

By that or any other collection of labels and names, they are all essential to a successful story.  In any genre, format or medium.

The longer your story, the more critical they are.

The shorter your story, the more readily evident they need to be.  Even if, because of the limitations of length, they are merely implied.

That’s not a contradiction, it’s an artful subtlety.  Which is why copywriting is hard.

It’s also why writing novels and screenplays is no place to invent your own rules.  There are underlying principles driving everything, and they can — and should — be discovered, studied and observed before, during and after one undertakes to write such a story.

Getting them down on paper is craft.  Making them work is art.

Both are essential in any form of storytelling.

Leave out any of the six core competencies, or even merely be weak in any single one, and the story will suffer for it.  And at a professional level of aspiration, it won’t get past the approval stage.

Here’s an even better story, told in 90 seconds.

And nothing about it, in terms of the six core competencies, is implied.  The only leap it asks the viewer to make is, in fact, its point.

It’s about as subtle as a head-on collision. 

This piece is a clinic on the six core competencies.  See if you can spot them as separate yet brilliantly melded essences: concept, character, theme, structure, execution, and voice.

Note how the totality of these blended parts become something in excess of the sum of its parts.

All without a single word of narration or dialogue.

I won’t tell you what it’s for.  If you haven’t seen it, you need to experience this for yourself.  Experience it full frame, turn the sound up high.

Watch and learn.  HERE.

Pay attention.  Your story — and your life — may depend on it.


Filed under Six Core Competencies

7 Responses to Another 1.5 Minute Workshop on the Six Core Competencies

  1. I’ve seen this before and it’s a truly moving commercial. I han’t thought to notice before, but yeah, 6 core competencies in 90 seconds. Wonderful.

  2. Martijn Groeneveld

    Hey Larry,

    would you mind naming them for me? The six different components?


  3. Frank Morin

    Brilliant. I hadn’t seen this one before. Thanks for pointing it out.

  4. Larry. Can’t wait for you to reveal the 6 in the video clip (as you see them). I’d also like to see if you could pick out any(or all) of the circus tent points of story structure.

  5. Debbie Burke

    @Shane, good question!
    Larry, I’ve been hard at work on Rachel’s two graphic circus tents with my latest novel. For a confirmed pantser, it’s damn hard work to outline, but I’m determined to do it. Your persuasiveness is hard to resist. Thanks for the great content.


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  7. Kelly

    Hello, Larry. Kelly here.
    Very interesting commercial.
    I’m with the others– I’d like to see a “deconstruction” of the commercial.
    As I scanned the YouTube video, there is another there by the military, also for the same message. Thought the six applied to it as well (and it was a well done piece).
    Looking forward to your book coming out– February still the planned date?
    Cheers, Kelly