Small Story Problems

Published on February 12, 2015

Small Story Problems

The Small Stories thing is getting some momentum.

I’m excited about that!

I’ve been receiving lots of links from people, including two submissions that were very close to being ready to share with you. I’ve started working with the two video creators (via email) to help them make a few adjustments to their Small Story videos.

(I wish I could do that for everyone, but of course, that would be impossible.)

In the meantime, here are the most common areas needing improvement I’ve seen in Small Story video submissions:

The length needs to be under two minutes.

I set a maximum duration of two minutes for these. In the real world, you can make videos as long as they need to be, but to qualify as a Small Story here, they need to be under two minutes long.

The video needs to stand alone.

Many of the Small Story video submissions couldn’t stand by themselves.

When the creators sent me the link, they also explained in their emails what the story was about. They explained the background, what they were trying to accomplish, etc.

This is a mistake. The video should be able to stand alone. It should answer the questions: who, what, when, where, and why.

A stranger should be able to stumble on the video, watch it, and understand it.

Here are some common tools for answering those questions in a video:

Narration is a very effective tool for this. You can straight-up give people the information they need to understand the video.

Interviews can do it too. When you have someone on screen say "I'm Aiden Hyman and I’m 11 years old...", that starts answering those questions.

As a last resort, you could use text on the screen to answer the important questions. I don’t prefer this way (my assumption is that the viewer wants to watch not read the video), but it can do the job.

If someone can understand the video and have their questions answered, there’s a higher likelihood they’ll enjoy it.

The video needs to be more than a montage set to music.

Many of the Small Story videos I’ve been watching are really video montages set to music. Montages can be wonderful, but that’s not what the Small Story is about.

Here’s a tweet I posted on this topic:

By the way, if you’re not following me on Twitter. I’m @izzyvideo. You're welcome to follow me. :)

The video needs to be more than just a commercial.

I received plenty of Small Story video submissions that were really just a commercial for their (or someone else’s) business. They go through features and benefits, etc.

There’s nothing wrong with commercials. I’m actually a huge fan of commercials that are done well. But they aren’t the Small Story concept I'm focusing on.

If you wanted to transform a two minute commercial spot into a two minute Small Story, you could take more of a documentary-approach.

Or you could do it like a news story, a two minute video that might be shown as a news segment on your local television station.


I hope that by sharing some of these common problems, you’re able to take your own Small Story videos to the next level.

I definitely want your Small Story video links. I’m not saying don’t send them to me. Just the opposite, in fact. Please DO send them to me. (My email address is on my about page.) Just make sure they fit the Small Story guidelines. :)

This article was last updated on October 6, 2020


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