The Science of Story Telling

by David de Souza @

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The Science of Story Telling by Mind Map: The Science of Story Telling

1. Stories often begin with unexpected change.

1.1. The brain finds change fascinating

1.2. We don't become aware of something unless there is change

1.3. Create curiosity

1.3.1. Creating a scenario that stops short of revealing everything

1.3.2. Unexpected change This is the ignition point in the story

1.3.3. Maximum curiosity = when reader has an idea but isn't quite sure and must resolve that itch of curiosity

1.3.4. In The 'Psychology of Curiosity' Loewenstein show 4 ways of creating curiosity:: The presentation of as question or puzzle A sequence of events with anticipated but. unknown resolution The violation of expectations that triggers a search for for an answer Surprised by red hearings and seduced that someone else knows the secret but we don't

1.3.5. Dogs live in a world of smells, humans live in a social world. As the social world is so important to us, we have a hightened curiosity to it.

1.4. Creating meaning by having the right 'change' event happening to the right character at the right time.

2. Harness the Brain by:

2.1. Order is important

2.1.1. For example: 'Jane gave a kitten to her dad' is better than 'Jane gave her dad a kitten'

2.1.2. For example: 'Jane kissed her dad' is better than 'dad was kissed by Jane'

2.2. Use specific details:

2.2.1. To make stories vivid, one study found that 3 specific traits should be mentioned, for example: A shiny, black coffee pot A furry, little cat

2.2.2. Instead of telling the reader something was "terrible", describe it so they will be terrified.

2.2.3. For example: She ran the field in 79 seconds

2.2.4. It isn't enough to tell us what a man did during his life. You need to say who he was. How was he different from John Doe?

2.3. Evoke the senses by pairing sensory information (touch /smell/taste/hearing) + visual. For example:

2.3.1. lemony fresh hands

2.3.2. Cabbagey brown sock

2.4. Attention is focused on things that have personal meaning, not things that simply stand out

2.5. Stretch time during a suspenseful moment, similar to real life during a car crash.

2.6. Use mataphors. It's the method the brain understands abstract concepts such as love, community, anger

2.6.1. Do not use cliched metaphors

2.7. Scenes should have a "because" between them, not "and then". Brains have friction for "and then"

2.8. Cause and effect

2.8.1. Show rather than tell

2.8.2. Suggest instead of explain

2.8.3. Allow the reader to anticipate the unfolding of the scene This lets them input their own feelings, interpretation and narrative into why the scene hsppened

2.9. At a young age our brains are changing, developing models of the world but soon we go from being model bullets to model defenders.

2.9.1. This is where human conflict and drama are born

2.9.2. The character is at war not only with the external world but primarily with themselvds The reward of this war is the answer of: Who am I?

2.10. Ego

2.10.1. Our brains are hero makers that create lies 'it wants us to feel like a pluvky, brave protagonist in the story of our lives' The strongest lies bolster our moral superiority. Studies have found that violence and cruelty have 4 causes: Popular opinion and stories that are cliche tend to presume 'greed' and 'dominance' are key. In fact it is moral superiority that causes most acts of evil

2.11. Evolutionary biologists state we have 2 incompatible goals:

2.11.1. To connect - To be liked and seen as non-selffish members of the tribe.

2.11.2. To Dominate Many of the things we say and do is for status Chimps support the underdog, providing an opportunity for revolution. Is this why we support the underdog in stories? Alpha males must balance dominance with the appearance of protecting lower ranks. The same as a hero, at the happy ending of a story, who combines the 4 values of: At the start of the story the hero is: Brain scanners show: Reading about wealth, popularity, good looks of others causes pain regions to be activated Reading about misfortune causes the reward system to be activated

2.12. Use goal direction to give your story thrill

2.12.1. Without a goal there is no drama

2.12.2. Many stories fail when: The goal doesnt narrow at the ignition point In the scene the protagonist should be active. Books that appear in the NYT best seller list contain 2x more of these words: 'do' 'need' 'want' The protagonist should be: Reacting Making decesions Control the chaos

3. When designing a character:

3.1. How do they try and control the world?

3.2. How do they deal with chaos?

3.3. What's their default and often flawed response?

3.4. What are their fundamenal beliefs and ideas they defend and incorporate as part of their core self.

3.4.1. 'As we interact with the world in our own characteristic way, so the world pushes back in ways which reflect it, setting us off in our own particular cause and effect journey - a plot specific to us'

4. East and West tell different stories and experience the world differently

4.1. West:

4.1.1. Greek myths have 3 acts Crisis Struggle Resolution

4.1.2. Indvidualism Arose from the hilly landscape of ancient Greece which made group activities like farming difficult and self reliance more likely. This led to personal glory and came: Olympics Democracy

4.2. East

4.2.1. Collectivism Arose because the land was flat and ideal for group farming Success was focused on the group not individual Confucius said: "The superior man does not blast of himself"

4.2.2. Stories have no cause and effect. They are striped of the subjects voice and opinons. There were no autobiographies for 2000 years.

4.3. Beliefs and attacks on our beliefs form the greatest stories

4.3.1. These attacks are how a protagonist learns and changes

4.3.2. As they struggle through the plot they'll encounter road blocks and realizations They will be lead astray Allies are often in the form of a secondary character who experiences the world differently.

5. The secret of story telling:

5.1. Who is the character in the story?

5.1.1. A very hard question because we don't know who we are We are lead astray by our inner voice It tells us we are good and justifies everything we do We think our inner voice is "us" It confabulates

5.1.2. This is how the plot develops Ignition point = Drama The drama causes the characters model of the world to become cracked The attempt to control their world which results in failure They panic and disorder ensues Repressed feelings manifest as the brain experiments with ways to regain control The character appears to have a split personality The reader becomes curious, as they don't know what the character is going to do next They are forced to change their deepest held beliefs about how the world works

6. The structure of a good story:

6.1. Jospeh Campbell:

6.1.1. A hero gets a call to adventure

6.1.2. They initially refuse

6.1.3. A mentor arrives and changes their mind

6.1.4. The hero crosses a transformational presapise, igniting dark forces that will chase them

6.1.5. A near death battle with the dark forces unfolds.

6.1.6. The hero returns to their community with a moral

6.2. Christopher Booker:

6.2.1. 7 recurring plots: Rags to Riches The Quest Yoyage and Return Rebirth Comedy Tragedy

6.2.2. Each with a 5 stage structure: Call to action The dream/Goldilocks stage - everything is well Frustration Conflict Resolution

6.3. Jung:

6.3.1. The protagonist will be out of balance, either too strong or weak in: Strength/order (masculine) Feeling/understanding (feminine)

6.3.2. The story concludes with the hero achieving the perfect balance of the 4 traits

6.4. Ancient Greek/Shakespearean

6.4.1. An event happens half way in which morphs the protagonist in some unchangable way.

6.5. Pixar:

6.5.1. The protagonist, living a settled life, has a goal

6.5.2. A challenge appears

6.5.3. Which results in a cause-and-effect sequence of events

6.5.4. The story builds to a climax

6.5.5. Good wins over evil

6.5.6. The moral of the story is revealed

6.6. Big Data shows successful stories have 6 types of 'emotional arcs'

6.6.1. Rags to riches Sucesses Rising emotions

6.6.2. Riches to rags Tragedies Falling emotions

6.6.3. Man in a hole A fall and then a rise

6.6.4. Icarus A rise then a fall Most commercially sucessful

6.6.5. Oedipus Fall rise fall Most commercially successful

6.6.6. Two sequenital man in holes Most commercially sucesful

6.7. All plots embrace:

6.7.1. 3 Act shape: Crisis Struggle Every dramatic scene will pose the fundamentals question "who am I?" Resolution

6.7.2. Change - driven by the protagonist It should be frequent Happen on more than one level, both the conscious and unconsciousness level of the protagonist

7. The Sacred Flaw Approach

7.1. Sacredness

7.1.1. 'Follow the sacredness. Find out what people find sacred and when you do you'll find irrationality'.

7.1.2. In the first act, when we first meet the protagonist, they should be irrational, and not aware of it.

7.1.3. This sarcedness should be damaging to them.

7.1.4. When someone asks 'what that character is like?' It should define them.

7.1.5. Build a reality around this Flaw for your character. What effect has it had on them in life? How has it affected their family life? How has it affected their romantic life? How has it affected their work life? What benefits has it had? What costs has it had?

7.2. Ignition

7.2.1. Write a list of unexpected changes that might occur This reveals their flaw This creates desire Add drama and jeopody into the ignition point by asking: The event is the final straw for the protagonist. Why? Why is today the worst day for this to happen? What is something big that could be at stake? This event means they have to take in the person or thing they are most afraid of.

7.2.2. Write a brief description of the ideal person for that change to happen to.

7.2.3. It should be the ignition with the power to change the character.

7.2.4. If using a milieu, a what if, or argument, match the character with a specific event.

7.3. There are 3 ways into a story that don't come from character:

7.3.1. The Milieu The setting of a story, for example: 'Scientists have found the cure for death and the earth is overflowing with humans Be specific to avoid cliches

7.3.2. The What if

7.3.3. The Argument

7.4. Origin Damage

7.4.1. There is often a moment in the story where the protagonist reveals their origin damage to another character.

7.4.2. What did the incident result in them believing?

7.4.3. Their sacred flaw should be a mistake about themselves and how the world operates. For example: I'm only safe when.... People only love me when.... The only thing that people can't know about me is... The most important thing in life is that I.... The terrible thing about other people is.... Create a scene where confirmation bias, allows the character to internalize their flaw so that they don't see it as a flaw A pivotal moment A scene with some jeopody The protagonist needs to be active and their flaw guiding their behavior The incident makes them feel their belief is correct, and key to how they will behave in the future. Their flaw becomes sacred, the key to controlling the world.

7.5. The Hero Maker:

7.5.1. A key part of the story: Put the protagonist into a scene in which they are defending themselves (and their flaw) by a person of authority Move the protagonist towards the ignition point that triggers them into action

7.5.2. Be your protagonist and argue so well in their defence that you almost convince yourself of their stupid decision. Every dramatic scene is a test for the protagonist: who are they going to be? The same flawed version of themselves or a reborn new version?