How to Tell a Compelling Story with MUSE Storytelling

STORYTELLING, MUSE Storytelling,, learn story

How to Tell a Compelling Story with MUSE Storytelling

Storytelling: No matter how hard I looked I didn’t see what they all saw. I was on a backpacking trip with my friends, Luke and JIm, in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

It was warmer than usual for springtime in Montana and the snowmelt turned the ground beneath us into a slippery, mucky mess. So, we opted to take it slow and put in a longer day of hiking.

We were about a mile out from our planned stopping point and it was nearing dusk when Luke stopped in his tracks and pointed into distance and mouthed,

“Check it out.”

Jim’s face turned white as he took a step back and I knew he saw it too.

I had done a lot of reading up on this area before embarking on our trip, so I knew it wasn’t rare to see bears in this country—and the chance of seeing a grizzly was pretty high. To be honest, I had been looking out for one all day, fearful of what would happen if we were caught off guard but also extremely hopeful that we would spot one from afar.

I squinted and looked in the direction he pointed. Expecting to see one of those massive creatures lumbering through the brush, and worried that it might be accompanied by a cub, I reached for my bear spray.

But I saw nothing.

Neither Luke nor Jim said anything for what seemed like forever; they just stared. Finally, Luke looked at me and I faced my palms up and shrugged as if to say,

“I don’t see anything.”

Again, he mouthed something.


With that, I looked again and moments later I spotted it. About 100 yards in front of us, a large mountain lion was lying on the branch of a Douglas Fir  about 15 or 20 feet up, the tip of her tail snapping back and forth as if to let us know she saw us too.

There we were, the three of us in a stare down with one of the area’s most skilled predators. We must have stood motionless for 15 minutes before anyone made a move, and then the cat climbed down from the tree and walked into the distance. She had no interest in us at all.

Once she was out of view we all sighed in unison and I noticed I was shaking. My thoughts were unraveling incredibly fast, and then it occurred to me: Had I not been with Luke, I would have never seen that cougar. I would have walked right under the branch she had claimed as a resting spot and chanced being pounced upon.

Admittedly, these creatures are masters at blending in with their surroundings, but I couldn’t even see her when I knew something was definitely there.

I couldn’t spot her because I thought I was going to see a grizzly bear. I had unknowingly set my expectations before the trip even started and looking for what I expected to see kept me from actually seeing what was right in front of me.

It wasn’t until Luke reset my expectations that everything changed and I was able to see the graceful and powerful creature.

The inability to see the cat wasn’t entirely my fault. As humans, we are more likely to notice things that are at the top of our mind.

Think about it: if you’ve ever been looking to rent or buy a new home, you begin to see real estate signs everywhere. It’s not that there was a vast increase in houses to market overnight, it’s that your expectations changed.


Storytelling for Your Film

The same is true in filmmaking. We are more likely to notice the things we are looking for. But if we don’t set our expectations ahead of time—if we don’t know what we should be looking for—we either won’t see anything or we’ll try to see (and try to capture) far too much.

Stillmotion developed something to help filmmakers overcome this, and other filmmaking challenges—a proven storytelling process called Muse.

STORYTELLING, MUSE Storytelling,, learn story

Muse suggests that every story is built on 4 PillarsPeople, Place, Purpose, and Plot. People create a connection for the audience. Place demonstrates authenticity. Purpose leaves the audience with a deeper meaning. Plot engages the audience, gripping them from the first frame to the last.

Paramount to Muse’s Purpose Pillar is the development of 5 Keywords. These 5 Keywords serve as a filter to ensure every decision is intentional. Knowing what and where to look each stop of the way enables storytellers and filmmakers to have clarity and confidence in crafting a story that is focused and delivers on reason the story needs to be told.

Misguided expectations happen when we have an ill-defined purpose. Before picking up a camera, it is so important that the filmmaker and crew have a clear vision to guide their actions and help in building the story.

To make this idea more clear, check out this tutorial on How to Develop Your 5 Keywords:

Video: How to Develop Your 5 Keywords (6:24)


Muse is a proven process that has helped Stillmotion win 5 Emmy’s and thousands of other filmmakers to become more remarkable storytellers, secure grants, win awards, bring in clients, and tell the kinds of stories they’ve been dreaming of. Now, you can get lifetime access to Muse for Documentary or Commercial for $47 off the original price. Just head on over to and use code, Indie. But hurry, this offer is only good through the end of the month.

If you like How to Tell a Compelling Story with MUSE Storytelling, then click below:
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