You’re doing an amazing job telling and analyzing stories. Here are a few observations so far:
Cut to the chase.
Start the story as close to the action as you can. Get rid of all the extraneous explanations at the beginning and just start. Our narrative intelligence will help us fill in the blanks.
What is the problem, really?
It’s usually the thing that you set out to do, what the story is all about. In a lot of the stories you've shared, the problem is to go somewhere for a purpose - for example, to see or do something new. The extraordinary thing that happens during the quest is NOT the problem - it’s what makes the story memorable and worth telling. It’s an obstacle or complication that you need to deal with. When Frodo gets attacked by the dark riders, that’s just one “sub-problem” in a chapter of the story. His problem still is to destroy the ring of power. His purpose is to save the world from darkness. Try cutting off everything that happens before you think the problem starts. Does the story still work? Often the problem is implied, so you need to make sense of the information you’re given to figure out what it really is.
Laurene’s story - the problem is finding a way to reward herself
Beth’s story - the problem is trying to find a way to stay in France
Melissa’s story - the problem is exploring Lake Wyara safely
Doug’s story - the problem is passing his philosophy class
Taruna’s story - the problem is acing the MBA interview
The quest is the thing.
The quest is the bulk of the action in the story. It’s what happens. It’s not what you learned and will do in the future. It’s what you’re doing in the story. If the problem doesn't occur until 2/3 of the way through the story, then what is all the stuff that comes before that?
Technology is a trap.
Technology on its own is a novelty. It can’t sustain engagement. So don’t rely on it. If your story isn’t engaging, all the wizardry in the world won’t save it. (We call that approach Holograms in a Shit Show). Get the story right first - then figure out how best to deliver it. Once you have a great story, then technology can enhance it beautifully.
Activate critical details.
If we need to know something, like where raccoons poop or what you did for a living, embed it into the action and make it part of the story. That's what makes it memorable. If it's outside the action, it's not critical to moving the story forward, which means that we're less likely to notice it and give it attention.
Great work - keep it up!
It's morning where I am, and I've been thinking about this post - cutting everything out to expose the problem.
The article Cut to the Chase: How Stories Engage in the Tips and Suggestions also explains this more. Thank you for helping clarify this for me (us). This line, for me, sums up the point well.
--> That’s when I learned that a story is nothing more than a problem, a quest by someone to solve the problem, and a solution.
I'm glad that it was helpful! I know distilling stories like this sounds ruthless - and it's essential if you're designing a story for a specific purpose. It's also really key when doing a story analysis, to find patterns and make sense of complexity.
When you start to listen to stories and focus specifically on identifying the problem, you'll find that you start to understand and take more away from the story.
Also, if you haven't read it already, Robert McKee's book Story really is the go-to resource for designing powerful stories. Well worth the time/dollar investment, even 30 years after it was written.
Looking forward to watching this play out for you this week!