Guest Blog – Paul Mclaughlin: Why Story is Vital to Voice Over and Content!?

Guest Blog – Paul Mclaughlin: Why Story is Vital to Voice Over and Content!?

Why Story is Vital to Voice Over and Content

By: Paul Mclaughlin

From: Versatile Voice Overs

Why Story is Vital to Voice Over and Content!?

Humans love stories. We have been telling them for thousands of years. First in caves and around campfires. And now transmitted via phones and screens. Stories elicit something primal within us, we want to hear them, and when they come to us in content, something in us makes us want to listen to them.

We have a few brains in our head. One of them is the reptilian brain. And that part is a story processing machine. Stories are instinctual for our species, because they go to the very nature of our survival and living. Stories are ultimately about connecting on a human level.

“The primal nature of stories is why they are all around us, in ways large and small. At water coolers and lunches, at home where children tell their parents why they have not done their homework, in news stories about the strivings of nations. Stories explain, justify, are art works, pleasurable in many ways, and give us short vacations from life so that we can return to daily life refreshed and better able to live.” (Laer Carroll


That means that content and the voice over that serves it, must tap into that part of ourselves that is primal and intuitive and must tell a great story. This means, story must be at the forefront of consciousness when it comes to thinking about content creation and voice over delivery.

Every single piece of voice over, has at it’s heart a story. This is the case even from the smallest 6 second commercial all the way to 15 hours of video game play. Through all of them, story is the vital element that draws all the elements together.

It means that story needs to be the structure on which everything hangs, including creative choices and the direction the voice over takes with the copy.

Story can usually be broken into A leads to B leads to C with someone or something attempting to do or achieve something. And behind this movement is the theme of the entire piece. One sentence to describe the whole thing.

Take the trend of new 6 second or less commercials:


That ad, tells the story of Mercedes Benz and it’s ability to perform, and generate excitement and thrill by using the feature of going from 0 – 100 kmh / 62 mph in less than the 3 second ad. Short but all about the story of how you can feel in the car. Then there are longer commercials and corporates and animation and gaming projects. Whether they are 6 seconds or much longer, refine it down to the essence, to the story essence. What is it about at it’s core? If your voice over is needing some assistance on a read, go back to the root of the whole thing. What is the story? And like Denzel Washington says in “Philadelphia” “Explain it to me like I’m a 6 year old.” Come back to simplicity.


Once you can say the story in a sentence, then everything else will fall into place, especially the voice over who knows what story they need to support and tell with their voice.

Of course, telling stories with the voice is a craft that takes many years to develop. How to economise and infuse a few sentences with much meaning. However, knowing about story is one of the foundational elements to good voice over craft and is a good prompt in the voice over booth or on the other side of the glass.

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