STORY PT.1

24 Feb 2017

The power of story is so primal that, though it is much studied, its potency remains essentially unquestioned.  If you'll forgive the speculative overstatement, I offer that, more than any other communication method, story reflects the human experience and in doing so captures the human imagination.  And like most universally loved tools, story is built on a remarkably simple framework: desire + conflict = change.

 

A character has a desire, but something stands in the way of fulfilling that desire.  So, the character searches for a way to overcome the obstacle to their desire.  As a result, something changes.  It may be that the character actually finds a way around the obstacle - in which case the obstacle is changed (reduced even) to something less than it was.  It may be that the obstacle wins, and the character is changed by the lesson he or she learns.  It may be that the character's desire ultimately dissipates.  But one way or another, things will never be the same again.  

 

This formula resonates with us for an obvious reason: we live it day in and day out.  We want, we are blocked, we push through, or give up or move on.  We story.  

 

This intrinsically human phenomenon is (and should be) harnessed by filmmakers, advertisers, public speakers - anyone who wants to connect with an audience.  When these "crafts-people" use the form correctly, it conveys a truth so self-evident that it is too easily forgotten amid the mental clutter of life: change is not only possible, it's impossible to avoid.  We can't get around it, but we can do our best to channel it.  We can be proactive with our desires.

For the filmmaker, being proactive may take the form of a hero hell-bent on capturing the attention of a new love or rescuing an old one from the clutches of a nemesis.  For the advertiser being proactive may mean buying their brand of deodorant or eating to their cheeseburgers.  For the public speaker being proactive may mean persuading an audience to always say yes or never say no.  

 

For everyone, story is ongoing.  The professional communication class may clarify a few things. But they can't live the changes for us.  Communicators who are good at their jobs realize this and strive to inform and inspire their audiences' individual stories and then to leave them to it.  A communicator who makes an audience feel free to choose gives them the sense that they are allies in their story - collaborators with a common goal of overcoming the obstacles in the way of their fulfilled desires.  Most any audience member would naturally turn to such an ally time and time again.  



 

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