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Fundamentals of storytelling

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before jumping into the world of storytelling, content and different story formats, let's make sure we get the very fundamentals of what makes a story a story

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Fundamentals of storytelling

  1. 1. lack object of value conflict dramatic structure informationtime the basics you need to know before diving into storytelling world
  2. 2. everyone is looking for a universal formula to storytelling (and storytelling success of course) forgetting one simple truth – in humanitarian sciences stories and narratives have been analyzed for a really long time yielding interesting and enlightening results … STORY FUNDAMENTALS …
  3. 3. everyone is looking for a universal formula to storytelling (and success of course) forgetting one simple truth – in humanitarian sciences stories and narratives have been analyzed for a really long time yielding interesting and enlightening results … STORY FUNDAMENTALS … narratology, cultural studies, semiotics have been constructing theories and analytic frameworks around stories – it’s really worth taking the most common and simple findings as a starting point to gain a basic and yet fundamental understanding to what a story really is* * - everything that follows are watered-down narratological and semiotic concepts
  4. 4. WHY SO IMPORTANT? stories and storytelling have been around for as long as our cultural memory extends and only in the recent years we start to accept it’s ubiquitous presence in everything we do
  5. 5. stories have a tremendous impact on us it is paradoxical, but stories that we don’t believe in, i. e. fiction are the ones that changes us and the world the most.
  6. 6. stories have a tremendous impact on us it is paradoxical, but stories that we don’t believe in, i. e. fiction, are the ones that changes us and the world the most. we experience stories we react to stories the same way we do to first-hand experiences – we have a unique capacity to learn from stories and an even more fascinating ability to organize knowledge as stories
  7. 7. the starting point for our journey through fundamental storytelling concepts is the human condition itself
  8. 8. LACK is what defines the human nature – we constantly move, change places and roles, just because we feel a certain lack or craving, which at the moment of fulfillment is substituted with something else
  9. 9. equilibrium disrupted equilibrium journey restored equilibrium stories work in a strange way – it doesn’t matter where the narration starts (at the beginning, in the middle or at the end), one action or phase always presuppose something that comes before and something that will follow.
  10. 10. equilibrium disrupted equilibrium journey restored equilibrium stories work in a strange way – it doesn’t matter where the narration starts (at the beginning, in the middle or at the end), one action or phase always presuppose something that comes before and something that will follow. and if we accept that lack of something is a predetermined feature of a stories DNR, then we have to admit that there are four stages to it: being satisfied without the feeling of lack, being deprived or introduced to a new object of desire, putting effort to reach it and dealing with the acquisition or the failure
  11. 11. equilibrium disrupted equilibrium journey restored equilibrium usually the presupposed state in the story is a state of equilibrium where something is in balance and things are just the way they’re supposed to be.
  12. 12. equilibrium disrupted equilibrium journey restored equilibrium this is where the story really starts – with the disruption of the status quo, with the setting out to do the quest. Somebody is called out to act. The reasons for it might be numerous – both internal (personal will) and external (intimidation, necessity)
  13. 13. equilibrium disrupted equilibrium journey restored equilibrium a journey should be understood as a transformation – it can be a physical one (going from point A to point B) or it can be inner one (changing from state A to state B)
  14. 14. the most essential thing about story is the journey - there is no destination without a journey as there is no answer without a question JOURNEY …
  15. 15. transformation brings change and without change there is no story TRANSFORMATION …
  16. 16. equilibrium disrupted equilibrium journey restored equilibrium …and so there are stories that make us feel good and restore the disrupted equilibrium and there are those who show impossibility of such return to an innocent state
  17. 17. stories rarely move in one direction – they develop both ways, at the same time as actions unfold we are constantly learning about the past as well – every journey presupposes both a destination and a reason STORIES FORWARDS AND BACKWARS … …
  18. 18. lack object of value conflict dramatic structure informationtime the concept of lack is directly related to the concept of object of value – something we pursue in our journey
  19. 19. OBJECT OF VALUE a certain thing we want to attain or achieve – that’s the object of value. The value part is about something that we want the object for. And usually we do not want the objects themselves, but something they provide us with or something they represent
  20. 20. lack always has an object and for different subjects within the story the same object can hold different value, which means that even if we are after the same thing, most probably we are not
  21. 21. but what drives stories and make them exciting is not the fact that we try to achieve a certain object with particular value investments, but the fact that the same object holds value to somebody else as well … …
  22. 22. and this leads to conflict
  23. 23. lack object of value conflict dramatic structure informationtime stories are nothing more than a series of disrupted equilibriums when one character robs another of its object of value thus setting a never-ending number of journeys to restore the balance
  24. 24. CONFLICT conflict is the driving force behind a story – it is the possibility that the object of value that we are pursuing can be obtained by others. It also reflects the eternal imbalance in the world: with someone having something, it can not belong to others. And thus, starts the CONFLICT.
  25. 25. what is desirable in life is not something that is desired in fiction THE (UN)ORDINARY … nobody is interested in experiencing the expected everyday outcomes in simple situations filled with calm certainty …
  26. 26. INNER VS OUTER what the conflict brings to the story is the uncertainty of outcomes. It is what thrills us and allows us to get lost in the story.
  27. 27. COMPETITION is all about two subjects trying to prove which one possesses the right competences to acquire the object of value. Most of the stories can be translated as a sequences of obtaining/perfecting/proving competence … …
  28. 28. lack object of value conflict dramatic structure informationtime the conflict becomes a much more engaging endeavor when it follows a particular dramatic pattern
  29. 29. DRAMATIC STRUCTURE conflict is what makes the story exciting, but it alone doesn’t explain why we stick with some stories for as long as they last. And there’s a repetitive pattern that can be found in stories as ancient as the ancient epic poems (take Beowulf as an example) that remains unaltered up to these days.
  30. 30. DRAMATIC STRUCTURE 1 2 3 4 this particular dramatic structure is the most frequently employed in stories (from blockbusters to biographies or even academic papers)
  31. 31. DRAMATIC STRUCTURE 1 2 3 4 the need for at least two dramatic arcs within a narrative can by explained by universal structure of tests that the hero has to go through to prove that he/she is a real hero
  32. 32. 1 2 3 4 CHALLENGES OR TESTS: QUALIFYING DECISIVE GLORYFYING the hero has to qualify for his role or gain the necessary skill/competences to obtain the object of value, the hero has to overcome the main obstacle the hero has to be recognized for his achievement both ancient and modern narratives follow the same logic – the consecutive tests that the hero goes through provide the chance to have a narrative twist (as in why does the action film hero has to be captured in every single movie)
  33. 33. what the conflict brings to the story is the uncertainty of outcomes. It is what thrills us and allows us to get lost in the story. UNCERTAINTY … in other words, the hero needs to repetitively prove that he’s the hero
  34. 34. lack object of value conflict dramatic structure informationtime the feeling of uncertainty is further reinforced due to the way the storyteller handles information in his/her story
  35. 35. INFORMATION the delivery of information is what manipulates our feeling of certainty/uncertainty, the expected and the unexpected
  36. 36. stories are not about telling something, but more about hiding something up until the time when it’s right to reveal it TELLING OR HIDING …
  37. 37. expose hide reveal interfere storyteller might use different strategies for distributing information to the listener/viewer
  38. 38. expose hide reveal interfere storyteller might use different strategies for distributing information to the listener/viewer the storyteller directly reveals information to the listeners/viewers the storyteller provides the missing pieces of the puzzle, that still require active participation form the listener/viewer the storyteller doesn’t reveal or hint at the presence of information the storyteller hints at the presence of information, but doesn’t allow to fully comprehend it
  39. 39. what makes the difference is not what we say, but what we don’t ...
  40. 40. lack object of value conflict dramatic structure informationtime a more specific form of manipulation with information on the part of the storyteller is the manipulation of time
  41. 41. TIME so storyteller primarily works with time – by stretching and expanding it, working with actions sequences, postponing and rushing ahead
  42. 42. extended time condensed time the storyteller works with time: the time can be expanded when one moment takes forever and it can be condensed when a single sentence covers a decade
  43. 43. extended time future condensed time past the storyteller works with time: the time can be expanded when one moment takes forever and in can be condensed when a single sentence covers a decade the storyteller also works with the sequence of events – most of the stories we experience aren‘t linear
  44. 44. THE NARRATIVE BEING TOLD A B C D E F B F E C D STORYLINE (most often) from the very moment the storyteller starts telling his story, the linearity of the story breaks down and the chronological sequence gets distorted
  45. 45. stories rarely move in one direction – they develop both ways, at the same time as actions unfold we are constantly learning about the past as well ATEMPORAL … …
  46. 46. we are not interested in hearing linear stories (things like chronological histories). This is due to the time constrains – the story told can not be as long as the actual recounted events. Human ingenuity finds way of how to condense a story in a more compact format. Story is a condensation of meaning. CONDENSED … …
  47. 47. lack object of value conflict dramatic structure informationtime these are the essential building blocks of the story – let’s dive further

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