Understand and master the science of persuasive communication.
📖 Story Arc
The elements of story:
This is the traditional story arc, and it has many incarnations:
- Hero's journey — Joseph Campbell's Monomyth
- Once there was a — fairytale structure
- Three-act story structure
- Lost and found
- What is, what could be, call-to-action
- Platform, tilt, resolution
While the traditional story arc is powerful and reliable, other approaches are possible.
In medias res*Record Scratch*: Yup, that's me. You're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation.
Different story structures produce different results.
For more on technique, see storytelling. For visual storytelling, see panel-to-panel transitions.
Simply imagine trying to answer the questions “What happened?” or “Who are you?” without recourse to narrative. Regarding the latter question, it may be useful to remember Hannah Arendt’s distinction between what I am and who I am. Perhaps I can respond to the question “What am I?” without a story, but I don’t think I could do so to the more significant question “Who am I?”
philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, although he does not discuss narrative as a technology. Like Hayles, MacIntyre finds that being human is correlated to the mediations of narrative. “Man is in his actions and practice, as well as in his fictions,” MacIntyre argued, “essentially a story-telling animal.” MacIntyre also went so far as to suggest that “the unity of a human life is the unity of a narrative quest.” Moreover, he claimed, “I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’”
Narrative is our default sense-making technique, in part, because it reflects our fundamentally time-bound existence. We experience life as a succession of moments yielding a discernible past, present, and future. Likewise, while narratives can artfully play with the representation of time, they are typically structured in a manner that mirrors our experience. But narratives are not merely a chronological list of all events or happenings. They are selective and purposeful: events are included so as to yield or imply meaningful relationships, establishing not only what has happened but also why and with what significance.
Stories of this sort also act as a filter on reality. We never merely perceive the world, we interpret it. In fact, our perception is already interpretation. And the work of interpretation depends to no small degree on the stories that we have internalized about the world. So when we hear about this, that, or the other thing happening, we tend to fit the event into our paradigmatic stories. To be clear, I don’t think this is a bad thing. Honestly, I don’t see how it could be otherwise. Perhaps this is overstated, but it seems to me that our humanity is, in fact, wrapped up with this story-telling capacity.