I’m currently reading Robert McKee’s Storynomics—like most of McKee’s books, he’s dropping storytelling wisdom, but in this case it’s specifically for marketers, and I love how thoroughly he covers the fundamentals.
If you would have asked me for example about the difference between a narrative and a story… I wouldn’t have been able to give you a clear answer.
Here’s how McKee described the difference:
Narratives tend to be flat, bland, repetitive, and boring recitations of events. They slide through the mind like juice through a goose, and as a result, they have little or no influence on customers. Stories, on the other hand, are value-charged and progressive. The mind embraces a well-told story; the imagination is its natural home. Once through our mental door, story fits, sticks, and excites consumer choice. The next time you’re bored to the bone by somebody’s “story,” in all likelihood you’re not being told a story. If you were, you’d be listening and engrossed. Instead the guy is torturing you with a narrative, probably a repetitious recitation of “. . . and then I did this and then I did that and then I did the other thing and then and then and then…”
WHAT STORY IS
What is a story, precisely? The essential core event in all stories ever told in the history of humanity can be expressed in just three words: Conflict changes life. Therefore, the prime definition becomes: a dynamic escalation of conflict-driven events that cause meaningful change in a character’s life.McKee, Robert. Storynomics: 1 (p. 48). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.
So the tldr:
- a narrative is chaining a bunch of events together through “and then this happened, and then that happened, and then this happened”
- a story is a dynamic escalation of conflict-driven events that cause meaningful change in a character’s life