E-lesson 7: Important elements in an engaging story.
Aim of e-lesson 7 is to make aware of the important elements within a story so as to engage the audience.
Time required: 30΄
Read the following text adapted from: http://www.publicengagement.ac.uk/how/guides/narrative-and-storytelling (A guide produced by Graphic Science in collaboration with the NCCPE)
How to tell a story
Decide on the purpose of your engagement, what you want to achieve and what it is important for the audience to know. Then frame your narrative around this. Choose your anecdotes wisely. Don’t use storytelling to explain the simple stuff, use it to simplify the complicated bits.
When constructing a narrative or telling an anecdote, keep your story simple so that it flows neatly.
- Give the story a beginning, a middle and an end
- Introduce the characters and set the stage at the beginning
- Introduce conflict – without conflict you have no story. Conflict can take many forms (i.e. human vs human; human vs society; human vs nature; human vs himself/herself)
- Create a turning point which leads to a resolution.
- Conclude – make sure that all conflict is resolved and there are no loose ends not tied up.
In order to tell a story adequately, it may help to reflect on the structure of the story: There are a number of schools of thought, and tools you can refer to, in order to structure your story and enhance its impact:
The Greek Philosopher, Aristotle set out a three-act structure for storytelling:
- Beginning: Set up the story - introduce the characters and the status quo and then introduce the catalyst.
- Middle: The conflict rises until it reaches a crisis or turning point.
- End: The climax and resolution.
Pad the story out: Gustav Freytag built on Aristotle’s work. He set out five plot components:
- Exposition: The situation before action starts.
- Rising action: A series of conflicts and a crisis.
- Climax: The turning point/most intense moment of the story.
- Falling action: Action that follows the climax.
- Resolution: The conclusion, tying together all threads.
The Story Spine is a template created by the playwright, Ken Adams. It consists of a series of opening sentences which help to structure a narrative:
- “Once upon a time” – Set the stage, introduce the context and introduce the characters.
- “Everyday” – Establish the norm, so people can achieve a sense of change from what has gone before.
- “But one day” – The catalyst. The reason for telling the story.
- “Because of that” – The heart of the story. The consequences that ensue from the catalyst.
- “Until finally” – The climax.
- “And ever since then” – The resolution and conclusion.
- Create characters for your story and give them a name. People relate to people so give it a human face.
- There should be learning for principal characters that the audience can empathise with, including an opportunity for audience members to learn something about themselves. In his body of work ‘Poetics’, Aristotle suggested that the audience should relate emotionally to the conflict laid out in the plot and any change in the characters as a result. He said that the imitation of events that arouse emotions, such as pity or fear, help the spectator to achieve an emotional release (catharsis).
- Though characters are important, keep your eyes on the plot - the characters exist to drive the plot.
- Anything that does not further the plot and does not weaken the story by its absence is unnecessary and should be removed
Recognize the elements (Structures & Characters) mentioned above in the story “The Soul of Solar Energy: Augustin Mouchot” (or in the story of your choice). You can use the version of the story you have chosen in E-lesson 5 [download DOCUMENT]
- Note with a sentence the beginning (1), the middle (2), and the end (3) of the story
- Write down the names and the characteristics of the characters involved.
- Which is the turning point in this story?
- Which action follows the climax (1) and what is the resolution (2)?
- Do you think that there is redundant information included? Which?