It goes without saying (and yet here I am saying it) that we are inundated with content every day. We watch, read, and listen to dozens and dozens of stories through various mediums. So much so, that we literally forget most of what we take in. Our brains simply cannot handle the overwhelming volume of information.

But there are some stories that stay with us. The ones we want to share. The ones that emotionally move us or make us pin a quote to the office corkboard. I’ve recently been down a rabbit hole about this, and I think I’ve pinpointed some of the key ingredients that give certain stories that “stickiness” factor.

The Power of Relatability

The stories that leave a lasting impression often act as mirrors reflecting our own lives. Think of that one movie scene where the protagonist is saying goodbye at an airport. Didn’t it remind you of your college farewell? When we see familiar emotions, struggles, or even moments of joy that resonate with our experiences, these tales weave into our own narrative memories. They remind us of the milestones in our journey, the heartbreaks we’ve endured, and the little joys we’ve celebrated.

The Universal Connection

While individual experiences might differ, there’s a shared human experience that binds us. Whether it’s the joy of a first love, the grief of loss, or the anxiety of facing the unknown – these are emotions that everyone, from a teenager in Alaska to a grandmother in Miami, can understand. Remember when you read “To Kill a Mockingbird?” Despite our different backgrounds, most of us felt the weight of injustice and the purity of childhood innocence in the narrative. This universality bridges culture, language, and even time.

Crafting Vivid Imagery

The beauty of storytelling lies in its ability to teleport us into different worlds. A truly memorable tale paints a picture so vivid that we can almost smell the ocean, hear the bustling streets, or feel the character’s heartbeat race in moments of peril. Just like when your friend described their trip on an Alaskan cruise and said they felt the cold win biting their face. We all know that feeling. A well-crafted narrative does more than tell; it transports its audience.

An Authentic Voice Strikes a Chord

In a world filled with curated content, the raw, unfiltered narratives stand out. It’s not about complex vocabulary or theatrics but about authenticity. Remember that TED talk by the woman who shared her struggles with mental health? Her genuine voice, devoid of pretense, made her story relatable and unforgettable. When stories come from the heart, without a mask, they strike a chord that resonates long after the tale is told.

Embrace the Unexpected

Predictability can often lead to stories fading into the background. However, those that toss in an unexpected twist, challenge our perceptions or present a fresh perspective, create a ripple in our minds. Stand up comedians are masters at this which is why we repeat their routines. Such moments jolt us, make us question, and stick with us as we ponder over the “what ifs” and “how did I miss that?”

Interactive Narratives Foster Deeper Bonds

When a story goes beyond being a monologue and becomes a dialogue, it engages us more deeply. Those tales that encourage reflection, ask questions, or even leave endings open to interpretation tend to embed themselves in our minds. It’s because they extend an invitation for us to become a part of the story, to add our voice, our interpretations, and our emotions.

So as I climb back out of that rabbit role, let me sum this up by saying stories are more than mere words or images strung together; they’re a concoction of experiences, emotions, and insights. The tales that linger are the ones that strike a balance between familiarity and novelty, between heartfelt sincerity and masterful craft. And as we continue our own life stories, let’s celebrate the narratives that have left an indelible mark on us.

Mission Forward

Mission Forward is a weekly LinkedIn Newsletter written by Paul Durban with tools, tips and tricks to help nonprofits reach their goals. Subscribe to the newsletter on LinkedIn.