Using the Ancient Bones of Story in the Digital Age

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It’s 100,000 years ago and a one-armed elder sits around an open fire, those mysterious lights twinkling above in the fathomless dark. He is recounting an old story of his near-death encounter with a lioness. 

The parents in the tribe enjoy the story, even though they’ve heard it a hundred times. But the children’s eyes are wide and unblinking. They are captivated. And they are learning.

That man most likely used the same building blocks of story that are found in all the great stories across time and culture. In my personal exploration of story, I have found these building blocks in international best-selling novels and in every worldwide box-office-record-breaking movie. Some of these building blocks are story motifs, some of them are character archetypes. But they are all old. Very, very old. And we are hardwired to unconsciously resonate with them. That’s why I call them The Ancient Bones of Story.

And it’s The Ancient Bones of Story that are the foundation of The HERO Method. The HERO Method is an approach to marketing communications that develops authentic, human connections with audiences. In doing so, it has proven to double response and revenue — and double year-over-year company growth.

For years, our industry has been buzzing about the need to create stories. It’s become another item on our business communications check list. But a boring story will create as much bounce as anything else. So will an irritating story.

So clearly, creating story for the sake of story doesn’t make sense. What does make sense is creating compelling content that is engaging and persuasive, and generates more response and revenue. And, yes, a well-crafted story contains all the tools we need to do that.

But we don’t have to tell a complete story to achieve those goals.

That’s because the power of great stories doesn’t come from telling them from the beginning to the end. Their power comes from being chock full of elements that connect with people on an unconscious level. The Ancient Bones of Story are where the power of story lies. These are the elements of story that click into and interact with our unconscious. They activate the parts of our brain that are responsible for decision-making. The Ancient Bones of Story also cater to the part of the brain that decides to trust; the part that says, “I’m open to change.”

There could be no better frame of mind to cultivate in your audience. There is no other way to change people’s mindsets. There is no other way to be truly persuasive. Research shows over and over again that when information is shared in the context of these Ancient Bones, the content is remembered more easily, accurately, and persuasively.

Just to reassure you: research has found these results in corporate communications. People who learned new concepts through The Ancient Bones of Story remembered that information more accurately and for far longer than new concepts that were relayed through facts and charts.14, 33

Perhaps the most powerful tool in The Ancient Bones of Story ‘toolbox’ is what scientists call Mental Simulations. This is the ability of the human brain to read words and turn them into sensory experiences in our minds. Neurologically we are all hardwired to experience The Ancient Bones of Story in sensory terms in our minds. We ‘see’ the words, we ‘hear’ them — we can even ‘smell’ and ‘taste’ them.

You experienced Mental Simulations when you read the beginning of this article — the story about the prehistoric one-armed man. Did you see the campfire? The stars in the sky? The children’s faces?

Mental Simulations are the most powerful key to persuasion.

So, try creating content in a way that your audience can imagine themselves experiencing your solution… experiencing the pleasure of how much better their world is because of it. If they have a positive emotional experience ‘in that world,’ their brain will persuade them to move forward in their Decision Journey…forward toward choosing your solution over the others.

And you’ll notice an immediate uptick in engagement and response.

Kathryn Gillett


For more about The Ancient Bones of Story, and The HERO Method, go to

If you enjoyed this article, you’ll definitely want to check out the FREE webinar series called “The 4 Most Costly Website Mistakes.”

It’ll be presented by Kathryn Gillett. The methodology she has created, The HERO Method, is a paradigm shift in Marketing & Sales that has proven to double response, revenue, and year-over-year company growth.

Register for FREE: “The 4 Most Costly Website Mistakes”.

Kathryn Gillett is the Creator of The HERO Method, and is The Chief Messaging and Story Strategist at The HERO Method.

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