language with which to analyse stories • You’ll be able to spot techniques used by storytellers to achieve certain effects • You’ll understand the pros and cons of using those techniques • You'll have a toolbox of storytelling craft to take back to your day job - my hope for this session is that it gives you a chance to consider storytelling craft and technique, and thus it’s things you can take back to your work, to help you become more skilled as a storyteller, especially in the digital world. and that you get to appreciate the skill and craft of deploying these techniques to achieve certain eﬀects.
‘save the cat’ ‘three act structure’ ‘video on the web’ ‘branching narratives’ @r4isstatic Most conversations around storytelling tend to talk about the following. These are important and relevant but not what I’m interested in. I want to talk about poetics, about the craft - about techniques you can use to achieve certain eﬀects when telling a story.
any punctuation, so that it is all one long sentence, joined together by the phrase ‘and then what happened was..’” The League Against Tedium, aka Simon Munnery @r4isstatic Which obviously isn’t storytelling. So, a vital thing is that..
their connections, are revealed, is a form of information architecture @r4isstatic Storytelling is revelation. Revelations of connections. The order in which you reveal things fundamentally changes how people experience a story, and the message you are trying to convey. (Adam Curtis does this…, Westworld example) Things and connections are revealed, mainly, through events.
most, but not all, stories). But a story isn’t just ‘and then what happened was’ - there are connections, either explicit or implicit, between the events, and/or the characters/places etc. One of the key skills of any storyteller is knowing when, and in what order, to deploy each event - to elicit certain feelings or responses in the audience also to keep them engaged, keep them guessing, give them satisfaction etc. which brings us on to…
Each person writes down four or five events from their life (don’t show the other person!) - Choose a mix of important & unimportant events - Tell your partner about your life - They have to guess which events are ‘satellites’ and which are ‘kernels’ - Try to make it tricky for them! @r4isstatic
a kernel to someone else.. How did it feel to downplay a kernel and overblown a satellite? Notice the diﬀerence between what you reveal & how you reveal the kernels & satellites. Why might storytellers use this? To shape experiences. Of course, the audience can have a say in this too - seemingly satellite events can be deemed to really be kernels in new stories that the audience tell (fan ﬁction etc). A satellite to the business might be a kernel to the users
O P P • FABULA - “The raw material of a story.” (Chronological order) • SYUZHET - “The way the story is organised.” (Narrative order) @r4isstatic This is where your skill as a storyteller really comes into play. Choosing which events to deploy, which connections to reveal, and in which order, is the hallmark of an interesting story.
‘What might happen next?’ They engage people in speculation about the future @r4isstatic Cliﬀhangers! “Serial narratives thrive by creating narrative statements that demand the next bit of information, inspiring our anticipatory hypothesising about what might happen next, to sustain us through the structured gaps between episodes." Why is that interesting? - self sustaining, addiction, plays into real life/twitter etc. - also something to do with the skill and deliberate use of gaps in delivery of information.
deliberately to incite intrigue Narrative Enigmas @r4isstatic They invite speculation about who/what/when/where/why/how - questions about the past they’re useful as beginnings, or as interruptions/changing up the status quo
All about trying to make sense of what has been revealed Narrative Enigmas @r4isstatic Typically used in detective stories, murder mysteries All about explaining, making sense of what has been revealed “if A, B and C are true, how do you explain X?”
both Statements & Enigmas An event might make statements, establishing facts/truths, but in turn, pose new questions both about what’s happened before, and what might happen in the future. - they’re interesting because they engage the viewer. - they invite the viewer to keep a tally of facts and questions - and to constantly assess the importance of said facts/questions (will they be kernels or satellites?) - all of which is to guess where the story will go next. - if it goes in a diﬀerent direction from that which is expected, is that satisfying, or inconsistent/annoying? Which are more popular/prevalent? Statements or Enigmas? “Most programmes predicated on such central narrative enigmas fail to live up to their concepts, as demonstrate by the failure of numerous enigma-driven programmes such as ‘FlashForward’. Instead, the majority of serial plots focus more on questions about future events triggered by narrative statements, rather than focusing on enigmas from the narrative past." (so are enigmas more just triggers, like in a detective plot within a serial narrative, or the focus more for ’special’ event episodes?) What else is interesting about all this?
technique we can play around with is time - the ordering of the revelation. There are three types of time to be aware of - they exist in parallel, but can be used for eﬀect, too. Story time = chronological time within the story world = history, what you look back on at the end. Whether it ‘makes sense’ or not can be a strength and a weakness.. Discourse time = “temporal structure and duration of the story as told”, reordering of events to tell the best story, ﬂashbacks, ﬂash forwards etc. (utilised often in ﬁction but also journalism…we’ll come back to this) Narration time = “temporal framework involved in telling and receiving the story” - screen time, reading time - has a great eﬀect on the experience, but also isn’t fully under the author’s control. It can be harnessed, though, in the release of narrative - cliﬀhangers to maintain suspense, return visits, and so on.
No context Lots of context Complex Narrative Anthology - Uber - Amazon - Facebook - Netﬂix - Reddit? reddit is a good example of something where the value is only revealed if you’re a regular user and have all the history etc. think about the user’s context when they’re coming to use your product - does it need more on boarding or is it clear from the start
(better memories, unacknowledged fan theories) - Viewer to Character = suspense (horror staple, anticipating the moment of revelation) - Viewer to Viewer = spoilers (pride in knowing more than others, pleasure in seeing how it was done, annoyance if ‘spoiled’)
information over time • Information is revealed through events: Kernels and Satellites • The order in which information is revealed is crucial • Narrative Statements provoke Anticipation Hypotheses • Narrative Enigmas provoke Curiosity Hypotheses • The connection, and gaps between Episodes can be exploited • As can the asymmetry of knowledge between Storytellers, Characters and Audiences @r4isstatic
Pick your key events • Carefully decide when to deploy satellites and kernels • Think about the order in which you’d reveal those events and connections • What hypotheses might someone have during the storytelling? • How might you break up the story into episodes? • What might you do about spoilers? Your turn to be a storyteller. In your groups, tell us a story.