Video

The simple story of a dog–and why it makes you cry

So there’s something stuck in your eye, right?

Let’s talk about why this works, as a story, and how it could be even better. Because I’m not adding value by simply sticking funny or heartwarming videos in your feed. We have to dissect them and learn a little. SCHOOL IS IN SESSION.

Why this works and how to make it better:

 

1) The mangled start doesn’t matter–yet fixing it would’ve made it even more viral

This video works even if you read the story on Huffingtonpost or wherever, and know all the story beats, before you watch the thing. That’s how good the story is.

HOWEVER: Starting out a video with text screens like this is almost always a mistake. Cramming all the text in the beginning slows it down and I bet a good percentage of people bail in those first few seconds instead of sticking with it, which is a mistake.

How to fix it: Start with video of the dog chained up. We don’t need any text to understand the problem, to get that setup. Then if you really have to, add a little voice narration. I’d kill the text screen entirely.

 

2) Our narrator takes risks and is a hero

The narrator keeps the focus entirely on Rusty the Dog, but he shows real heroism, taking time–and risks.

He spends time to get to know this dog, repeatedly risks getting bit and confronts the owner, saying he’s not leaving without the dog. That took guts.

And all the while, he knows his family can’t adopt the dog, that he’d have to find another home for it.

Everything the narrator does is unselfish, and while he doesn’t focus on it, or take credit, this makes the story better.

 

3) The biggest possible gapsĀ 

Conflict and surprise comes from the biggest possible gaps between expectation and result.

  • You expect the chained up, aggressive dog to bite his hand.
  • You expect the owner to laugh at him when he says he’s not leaving without the dog.
  • You expect the narrator to adopt the dog himself, not search for a home.
  • And you expect the dog to be timid and afraid when finally free, not friendly and joyous.

This is a little story, a tiny snippet of life. But it made me feel more than most of the action movies that I’d happily paid money to watch and wouldn’t see again.

I’d see this again. I’d smile to see a follow-up, to find out how Rusty is doing.

And I’d want to shake the narrator’s hand for taking some risks, and doing the right thing, for an old dog most people would avoid and forget.