“What IS story? And what ISN’T?” … Part 1

Went for a walk this morning (well, wasn’t really morning, but pretty much felt like it) and maybe it was the unexpected and unwonted amount of oxygen rushing through my synapses, but: After about half an hour of contemplating over the best way to maybe start a series of “What IS story? And what ISN’T?” posts, the plethora of oxygen carried my Hippocampus back 20 years in time.

Back to my first days at university, just after the first intro session with my future literature science professor, where he answered every freshman’s burning question “What should a Germanist read?” with a brief but sharp “Everything!”. I’ve tried for the past 20 years, I really have, but …

See what happens when you get too much oxygen and stuff??? What I wanted to get to is: Just a semester or two later, I was able to counter and at least give new first-semesters two answers to the question “What are the most important things you will learn during your studies?”:

  1. Secretaries are more important than professors.
  2. You don’t need to know a lot, you only need to know someone who knows or somewhere to look it up.

… And suddenly, after about 45 minutes of absent-minded walking, I knew where to start. With my man Kurt Vonnegut (humanist, pacifist and influential “counterculture novelist” of the twentieth century, as the NY Times called him after his passing in 2007) who probably indirectly gave the most accurate and at the same time most entertaining definition of story and non-story that at least I have seen or read to date – and remember: I haven’t even come close to my professor’s everything goal!

Take time for and enjoy these 4:37 minutes, they’re worth every invested second.

My lessons from this piece of infotainment are (business people hear, hear, we got some lessons learned, bullets, and guidelines coming your way right here):

  1. Stories move in waves. Every piece of content that doesn’t move beyond the B-E Meridian is NOT a story.
  2. Acknowledge the Negative. Either as starting point, turning point, climax or – and that scares the shit out of Hollywood as much as the Marketing work – as denouement.
  3. With the words of one of the world’s most acclaimed screenwriting lecturers Robert McKee: “Essentially, a story expresses how and why life changes.” (http://hbr.org/2003/06/storytelling-that-moves-people/).Meaning: No change, no drama, no story. A flat B-E Meridian has the same consequence for a story like a flat ECG wave for a human being: It’s dead.

Oh yes, human … that’s another marketing must of the last couple of years. Show people in your video, and there you have a story. Yeah, right.

Why it’s not quite as simple as that, but much more rewarding when you go the hard way, and why this is just the tip of the storyberg: Next time.

The story goes on … here … soon.

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