What happens when stories get smaller?

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SimonM
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What happens when stories get smaller?

Postby SimonM » Apr 13, 2008 4:59 am

In the way that Newtonian mechanics gives way to Quantum theory as magnification increases so I was wondering what happens to the rules as stories get smaller.

I spent a lot of yesterday looking at and thinking about an article by Dr Renée Fuller at http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC27/Fuller.htm. In it she talks of how we think in stories. She posits the story engram as the smallest unit of story and describes it as being a noun and an action verb. But it's evident that the story "Dog barks" is just too small to be grand argument. It's fascinating reading and really only peripheral to what my post is about.

Let's construct a scale for story with Dr Fuler's story-engram at one end and Grand Argument Story at the other. Then as we slide from GA to SE there must be a point where a story is just too short to be complete. I am wondering what happens on this scale and whether there are discreet entities at different sizes of story. I guess I am wondering how the Dramatica model deconstructs with size.

My starting point for all this cerebration was in considering how to do really good 2-3min video profiles for business websites. I had come to the conclusion that at the heart of a business lies an argument for dealing with an issue - familiar huh. And in thinking about how a business might explain itself it occured that there is a good way to present an argument. But 2-3 mins seems like a tall order for a complete Dramatica compliant job.

So I am looking at ways of using the Dramatica model to make an argument but to do it with a short video - or - more than one where the argument could be made across a number of units.

Does insanity lie this way?

If I am turning over old stones please can someone direct me to a relevant location?

Regards

Simon
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Chris Huntley
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Re: What happens when stories get smaller?

Postby Chris Huntley » Apr 14, 2008 2:10 pm

In Dramatica terms, the smallest "story" setup requires a quad (a noun, a verb, an adjective, and an adverb--"Dying dog barks defiantly"). Stories also contain time so they should include a progression of some sort ("Life sucks and then you die"). It requires at least one perspective, though more give you more story.

For your short business profiles, I suggest you use the four throughlines for your framework: I, you, we, and they. Figure out where you want your client in those perspectives and where you want their audience. Keep this in mind:

"I" is the personal perspective.

"They" is the objective, dispassionate perspective.

"We" is the subjective, passionate perspective.

"You" is the oppositional perspective (to the "I" perspective).

Couple these with the four domains, Situation, Fixed Attitude, Activities, and Manipulation (Psychology).

Let's say your client is a lender of some sort who targets people with money troubles. You might set things up like this:

"I" + Fixed Attitude -- Your Client (Money Lender) has a particular attitude
"You" + Situation -- Your client's target audience (Borrowers) are in financial need
"We" + Activity -- Professional relationship between your client and their audience and working together
"They" + Manipulation -- The Competition plays games and manipulates their customers (bad)

You then play this out something like this:

"Hi. I'm an agent at My Money Lenders (your client) and I do not believe in the word, 'No.' If you are in a tight financial situation, avoid those other vendors out there trying to manipulate you into bad deals, and come to us. We will work with you to get your debts paid and maybe even save you money in the process."

By tying up all four perspectives and all four domains, you've made a basic argument for what things are and how they are to be resolved (in a general sense). Obviously, the more specific you get, the more "story" you'll want to include.

Another way to play this is to stay within a single domain and explore the Types, and so on.
Chris Huntley
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Re: What happens when stories get smaller?

Postby SimonM » Apr 18, 2008 2:38 am

Brilliant Chris and thanks.

I think I have learned something from this. Dramatica theory is applicable from logline to full blown story whathever the medium.

I wonder how it will apply to the business itself...
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farmboy

Re: What happens when stories get smaller? - REVELATION

Postby farmboy » Jun 08, 2008 10:47 pm

Hi Chris,

This is brilliant! I think looking at the story in the fundamental way is a real step forward and I think that you should recommend that everybody starts it from his perspective as a logline and then work the story up, it really focuses you on what the story is about.

I have a story that I'd like you advice on if possble...

A rising Country & Western singer ("I") is discovered by an impresario ("You"), shaped into a star (Manipulation) and taken to Nashville.

Her mentor (You) dies as she has massive success and she subsequently battles (Activity) against the establishment ("They") to retain her independence and has several high profile relationships that she walks away from. Ultimately she finds out that fame was not what it seems or ultimately what she wanted (Fixed Attitude) and returns to her previous life.

I Personal perspective Fixed Attitude
You Oppositional Perspective Manipulation
We Subjective Passionate Situation
They Objective dispassionate Activity.

I am struggling in the "we" aspect. In fact is the "you" the situation and the "we" the manipulation of the impresario of the star?

Many thanks



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Re: What happens when stories get smaller?

Postby Chris Huntley » Jun 09, 2008 3:15 pm

You've got a couple of things that need tweaking (from a Dramatica perspective):

ONE
It sounds as though your original "You" (the impresario) is there for the Main Character's backstory, but disappears about the time things start going. It almost sounds as though the impresario's death (or the singer's decision to go it alone) is an inciting incident. The problem you are having is that this leaves your MAIN story (the one your work is about) without an Impact Character and therefore without an identifiable relationship throughline.

You've got many ways to develop the Impact Character (You) part of your story. Here are a few:

1. Don't kill of the impresario early on, but rather have them suffer a serious attack of some sort (forewarnings of the disaster yet to come toward the end of the story). This keeps the perspective alive enough to contrast the Main Character's personal development in the story. Without the Impact Character (IC) there is nothing to force the Main Character (MC) to grow. You CAN kill of the Impact Character part way through the story but their influence must live on to affect the MC through to the end of the story (e.g. Obi Wan in Star Wars).

2. Treat the impresario's influence on the MC as backstory. Create new a new Impact Character (or series of characters such as the ghosts in "A Christmas Carol") to challenge the MC's personal issues.

Once you have established which way you want to go with the IC, you can then address the relationship issues because there is someone with whom the MC has a relationship.

TWO
Unspoken in my simple description of making stories smaller were a couple of important "rules." One of the rules is that the Main Character and Impact Character form a dynamic pair (polar opposites on a sliding scale "teeter-totter" of perspectives). The same is true with the Objective ('They') perspective and the Subjective ('We') perspective. These relationships come into play when aligning them with the four domains. The domains themselves are paired: Situation with Fixed Attitude, Activities with Manipulation. This means aligning a perspective with a domain ALSO aligns the dynamic pair of the perspective with the dynamic pair domain.

I bring this up because your example breaks this rule. If your Main Character (the I Personal perspective) is tied to Fixed Attitude, your Impact Character (You Oppositional perspective) is tied to Situation, not Manipulation. This also affects the other two throughlines. They would look more like this:

I Personal perspective Fixed Attitude
You Oppositional Perspective Situation
We Subjective Passionate Manipulation
They Objective dispassionate Activity

With an Impact Character in Situation, he (she?) is going to have an influence on the Main Character because of his real world connections, his status in the C&W music world, his credentials... something along those lines. His status, and perhaps even his physicality, challenge the Main Character's fixation on becoming a star. (You know the drill) This makes their relationship about molding (manipulating) the new talent in a way that resists (which creates the tension in the relationship). The relationship need not be romantic. It might be that of mentor and student, parent and child, puppeteer and puppet, etc. -- any type of relationship you wish it to be.

The Object perspective (what we call the Overall Story throughline in Dramatica) is about the singer's struggles to break into the industry against the establishment.

Again, there are lots of ways to take your story. Do what YOU feel is the story you want to tell. Use the "rules" to make your story's argument. I think you'll be surprised how well it works.
Chris Huntley
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