BlogTalkRadio will kick off a series of interviews with storytellers in a show where the guest of honor was the Singer Tony Bennett. You can listen to the full episode on October 25, 2012 on this website.
The fairy tales of the Grimm Brothers are some of recent histories most powerful and captivating stories – and I still enjoy reading one every once in a while. That’s why I’m really excited about this book:
You can preview some of the illustrations on the Amazon page, and it’s just wonderfully done – yes, they are vintage illustrations, but I find they really pull you into the story and bring you back into that wonder and amazement which stories could create in your childhood days.
Apple already did it, but now Samsung too uses storytelling to promote their newest and fanciest smartphone. In this YouTube video, you get the story behind the design of the Samsung Galaxy SIII.
There’s a couple of things to say about this.
First of all, it’s brilliant marketing, because it even speaks to people who don’t want to hear about technical features or pixel resolution or processing details.
It’s a story about a bunch of highly talented and passionate people who work on one of the most successful products that will be released to market.
And even though the designers talk about technical things – new manufacturing processes, materials used and so on – it doesn’t sound like that. It’s emotional. He talks about the flow of water, the shimmer of pebbles in a stream on a sunny day, about gracefulness.
They talk about technology that works so well that you don’t even notice it – technology that’s so intuitive you don’t have to adapt to it, where interaction is emotionally engaging at first contact – just like with a human being.
They talk about natural sound design, so that when you use your phone it sounds like a stroll in the forest. The sound designers don’t just sit in front of computers, they used water, they used milk, juice and yogurt to create the perfect sound. You learn that the final sound of the dialer was the sound of orange juice dropping into a small cup – how fascinating is that? Think about it – you wouldn’t expect orange juice sounding different from water or apple juice, but the sound designers who created the auditory interface for the SIII explored it so deeply that they found out orange juice creates the ideal sound.
The swiping motion you make to unlock your phone? They designed the phone so it reminds you of the feeling of running your hands through soft grass, or dipping your feet into a stream of clear water, or the cool breeze of a bicycle ride..
Do you see all these meaningful mental pictures they are painting? All these fundamental and universal human experiences? All of the sudden, it’s not about the phone anymore. It’s not about functions. It’s about you, it’s about a part of your life and how it can be better than it currently is. They’re not trying to sell, but they are inspiring you to buy with this brilliantly created – let’s face it – advertisement.
What’s the future of storytelling going to be like? It’s surely going to make use of new technologies and stories will be told over multiple platforms – not just TV screens, not just computers, not just tablets, not just radios, not just MP3 players, not just smartphones, not just ___ [insert flashy new device name].
More complexity is being added to storytelling.
In one sentence:
audiences are looking for a blurring of barriers between content and reality in a layered yet cohesive execution
That’s the summary of a study by the research consultancy Latitude.
As KC Ifeanyi recently put it, these are the main factors that will shape the future of storytelling:
Immersion: Delving deeper into the story through supplementary context and sensory experiences.
Interactivity: Allowing consumers to become part of the narrative and possibly influence its outcome.
Integration: Having a seamless connection among all platforms being used and going beyond just replicating content on different devices.
Impact: Inspiring consumers to take action of some kind, e.g. purchase a product, sign up for a service, support a cause, etc.
Other findings from the study:
“Transmedia is more than media shifting:” 82% wanted complementary, not duplicating, mobile apps for their TV watching experience.
“The real world is a platform:” 52% consider the real world as another platform in which 3-D technology, augmented reality, and the like are expected to link the digital and physical.
Control: 79% expressed the desire to become part of a story, interacting with its main characters.
You can access the full study online (for free) here: What Audiences Want: Study Uncovers Possible Futures for Storytelling
Jon Thomas makes a compelling point in his article 7 Reasons Storytelling Is Important For Branded Content.
Especially today, when it comes to advertising or branding, most people think: online! social media! web! TV! radio! print! neuromarketing!
But there’s something missing in the mix: storytelling.
Yes, it’s thousands of years old, but it’s still just as important for effective branding. If not more. If you think about it – all of the “hot terms” people talk about when they talk about branding are essentially “carriers” of good storytelling.
His 7 reasons for storytelling in branding:
- Stories produce experience.
- Stories reveal what makes your message unique.
- Stories are emotional glue that connects you to your customers.
- Stories shape information into meaning.
- Stories can motivate an audience toward your goal.
- Stories are more likely to be shared.
- Stories are less likely to be resisted.
Gary Vaynerchuck recently talked at #SoMix2012, and there’s something that is central to everything he said and about how business is done, although he kind of sneaked it in there. But of course, when he slips a comment about the power of stories, we’re not missing it 😉
Here’s the secret that I barely like to talk about because I want to keep it to myself.
It’s all supply and demand, and it’s storytelling from the proper platform.
Here’s the whole talk:
And then later he said (around 1:01:00)
We are all only in the storytelling business. The story we tell to the customer is everything.
Gary is smart as hell when it comes to running a business. Listen to him 😉
Michael Gazzaniga is one of the world’s best known cognitive neuroscientists, and he recently published an excerpt from his newest book Who’s in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain:
In this excerpt he talks about a situation where he jumped away from a sound that resembled a rattle snake (in the area where he lived, there were in fact many rattle snakes).
If you were to have asked me why I had jumped, I would have replied that I thought I’d seen a snake. The reality, however, is that I jumped way before I was conscious of the snake. My explanation is from post hoc information I have in my conscious system. When I answered that question, I was, in a sense, confabulating—giving a fictitious account of a past event, believing it to be true.
I confabulated because our human brains are driven to infer causality. They are driven to make sense out of scattered facts. The facts that my conscious brain had to work with were that I saw a snake, and I jumped. It did not register that I jumped before I was consciously aware of it.
In truth, when we set out to explain our actions, they are all post hoc explanations using post hoc observations with no access to nonconscious processing. Not only that, our left brain fudges things a bit to fit into a makes-sense story. Explanations are all based on what makes it into our consciousness, but actions and the feelings happen before we are consciously aware of them—and most of them are the results of nonconscious processes, which will never make it into the explanations.
So realize: the reasons why we do things are often different from the reasons why we think (and say) we do things.
Then he talks about experiments with split-brain patients:
We showed a split-brain patient two pictures: To his right visual field, a chicken claw, so the left hemisphere saw only the claw picture, and to the left visual field, a snow scene, so the right hemisphere saw only that. He was then asked to choose a picture from an array placed in full view in front of him, which both hemispheres could see. His left hand pointed to a shovel (which was the most appropriate answer for the snow scene) and his right hand pointed to a chicken (the most appropriate answer for the chicken claw).
We asked why he chose those items. His left-hemisphere speech center replied, “Oh, that’s simple. The chicken claw goes with the chicken,” easily explaining what it knew. It had seen the chicken claw. Then, looking down at his left hand pointing to the shovel, without missing a beat, he said, “And you need a shovel to clean out the chicken shed.” Immediately, the left brain, observing the left hand’s response without the knowledge of why it had picked that item, put it into a context that would explain it. It knew nothing about the snow scene, but it had to explain the shovel in front of his left hand. Well, chickens do make a mess, and you have to clean it up. Ah, that’s it! Makes sense.
What was interesting was that the left hemisphere did not say, “I don’t know,” which was the correct answer. It made up a post hoc answer that fit the situation. It confabulated, taking cues from what it knew and putting them together in an answer that made sense.
We called this left-hemisphere process the interpreter. It is the left hemisphere that engages in the human tendency to find order in chaos, that tries to fit everything into a story and put it into a context. It seems driven to hypothesize about the structure of the world even in the face of evidence that no pattern exists.
Our interpreter does this not only with objects but with events as well. In one experiment, we showed a series of about 40 pictures that told a story of a man waking up in the morning, putting on his clothes, eating breakfast, and going to work. Then, after a bit of time, we tested each viewer. He was presented with another series of pictures. Some of them were the originals, interspersed with some that were new but could easily fit the same story. We also included some distracter pictures that had nothing to do with the story, such as the same man out playing golf or at the zoo. What you and I would do is incorporate both the actual pictures and the new, related pictures and reject the distracter pictures. In split-brain patients, this is also how the left hemisphere responds. It gets the gist of the story and accepts anything that fits in.
The right hemisphere, however, does not do this. It is totally veridical and identifies only the original pictures. The right brain is very literal and doesn’t include anything that wasn’t there originally. And this is why your three-year-old, embarrassingly, will contradict you as you embellish a story. The child’s left-hemisphere interpreter, which is satisfied with the gist, is not yet fully in gear.
The interpreter is an extremely busy system. We found that it is even active in the emotional sphere, trying to explain mood shifts. In one of our patients, we triggered a negative mood in her right hemisphere by showing a scary fire safety video about a guy getting pushed into a fire. When asked what she had seen, she said, “I don’t really know what I saw. I think just a white flash.” But when asked if it made her feel any emotion, she said, “I don’t really know why, but I’m kind of scared. I feel jumpy, I think maybe I don’t like this room, or maybe it’s you.” She then turned to one of the research assistants and said, “I know I like Dr. Gazzaniga, but right now I’m scared of him for some reason.” She felt the emotional response to the video but had no idea what caused it.
The left-brain interpreter had to explain why she felt scared. The information it received from the environment was that I was in the room asking questions and that nothing else was wrong. The first makes-sense explanation it arrived at was that I was scaring her. We tried again with another emotion and another patient. We flashed a picture of a pinup girl to her right hemisphere, and she snickered. She said that she saw nothing, but when we asked her why she was laughing, she told us we had a funny machine. This is what our brain does all day long. It takes input from other areas of our brain and from the environment and synthesizes it into a story. Facts are great but not necessary. The left brain ad-libs the rest.[…]
Consciousness flows easily and naturally from one moment to the next with a single, unified, coherent narrative. The action of an interpretive system becomes observable only when the system can be tricked into making obvious errors by forcing it to work with an impoverished set of inputs, most obviously in the split-brain patients.
Our subjective awareness arises out of our dominant left hemisphere’s unrelenting quest to explain the bits and pieces that pop into consciousness.
What does it mean that we build our theories about ourselves after the fact? How much of the time are we confabulating, giving a fictitious account of a past event, believing it to be true? When thinking about these big questions, one must always remember that all these modules are mental systems selected for over the course of evolution. The individuals who possessed them made choices that resulted in survival and reproduction. They became our ancestors.
From Who’s in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain, copyright 2011 by Michael S. Gazzaniga. Reprinted by arrangement with Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins.
Two guys did an interesting experiment. They purchased some cheap knickknack and resold it on eBay. But there’s a twist to this thing: they wrote a whole story around each object. More precisely, they let someone else (professional, creative writers) write a story about each object. And using stories, they were able to “flip” these objects for many times their original value – sometimes as much as a 2700% higher selling price than they bought the object for. That’s the power of stories 🙂
And then they turned the whole thing into a book:
Also check out our other recommended books on storytelling 🙂
If there’s a company that has mastered storytelling, it’s Pixar. Yes, Pixar is big about animation, but animation without powerful stories is worthless. What makes Pixar the great company it is is that they use animation to bring the power of story alive – but ultimately, the juice is in the stories.
If you want to learn storytelling from the best, study this:
Source: Pixar’s 22 Rules to Phenomenal Storytelling [INFOGRAPHIC], PJPPublishing
These rules are based on tweets by story artist Emma Coats from Pixar (via Pixartouchbook)
Pixar story artist Emma Coats has tweeted a series of “story basics” over the past month and a half — guidelines that she learned from her more senior colleagues on how to create appealing stories:
#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
If you want to know more about the story of Pixar the company itself, then here’s a great book for you:
Why are we wired for story? What makes a page-turner? Why do some books keep us up through the night, our eyes glued to each word? Why is it that some stories just keep us reading, and we can’t stop it? These are exactly the kinds of questions which Lisa Cron answers in her new book Wired For Story.
Turns out this is not just about prose or metaphors or anything that has to do with literature – it’s about the way our brains are hardwired.
What our brain craves is a sense of urgency.
That feeling that we must know what will happen next.
If there is one thing that your writing must accomplish in order to be read, then it is this: ignite the brain’s hardwired desire to learn what happens next.
There is a reason why we respond so strongly to stories. And it’s not a fancy, sophisticated, intellectual, cultured reason. It’s survival of the fittest biology. The power of story serves an evolutionary purpose.
As the Lisa Cron has recently written ((Why Are We Wired for Story?, Writer Unboxed))
It’s long been known that the brain has one goal: survival. It evaluateseverything we encounter based on a very simple question: Is this going to help me or hurt me? Not just physically, but emotionally as well.
The brain’s goal is to then predict what might happen, so we can figure out what the hell to do about it before it does. That’s where story comes in. By letting us vicariously experience difficult situations and problems we haven’t actually lived through, story bestows upon us, risk free, a treasure trove of useful intel, just in case. And so back in the Stone Age, even though those shiny red berries looked delicious, we remembered the story of the Neanderthal next door who gobbled ‘em down and promptly keeled over, and made do with a couple of stale old beetles instead.
Story was so crucial to our survival that the brain evolved specifically to respond to it, especially once we realized that banding together in social groups makes surviving a whole lot easier.
Suddenly it wasn’t just about figuring out the physical world, it was about something far trickier: navigating the social realm.
A good story creates physical, measurable reactions inside ourselves. We get curious how a story will unfold, and every time when we learn more about the stories unfolding (and thus satisfy another bit of curiosity) our brain rewards us with a nice dopamine shower. Yes, dopamine, the neurotransmitter that also makes eating and sex pleasurable, and that is responsible for many of the positive feelings drug addicts get when they consume their drug of choice.
If you take a look at the current bestsellser lists (or the past bestseller lists for that matter), you will find that it’s not the best writing that makes a book popular. You could easily explain this by saying: well, it’s all about marketing and pushing a writer with a blown up publishing budget, but that’s not it. Bestsellers become bestsellers not because of a writers lyrical abilities – they become bestsellers because of the way the stories they tell engage the readers.
It’s about the characters of the story, the problems they face and how they overcome them.
The purpose of your writing is to make your reader feel something. And as a reader you feel what the protagonist feels.
And ultimately, it’s not about what happens outside, it’s not about external problems, but it’s about how what is happening outside is causing change inside the protagonist. How is the protagonist changing? The character of your story has to undergo a transformation of character and/or personality.
Your character has to confront things he’s tried all his life to avoid. Your character has to earn success, snatch it out of the hands of defeat.
Why is that?
Because it’s experiences like these which we human beings ultimately crave. And stories are virtual realities. Neuroscientists have shown that when you are reading a story that captivates you, the same areas in your brain are active which would be active if you actually experienced what the protagonist experiences.
If you are a writer, or even if you are not a writer but just want to master the art of storytelling in any medium (even a verbal conversation), then the book Wired For Story by Lisa Cron could make a fascinating and eye-opening read, helping you to further hone your storytelling skills.
Click here to start reading Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron.