Seems like everyone is talking about story telling. Last April, it was the theme at the STC Spectrum conference. At STC Summit in 2015, Nancy Duarte gave the keynote (a version of her Ted talk) on the way great speechwriters use emotional trajectory to help messages resonate with listeners. For the last several years, marketers have been saying that storytelling is “one of the most powerful tools in your business communication toolkit.” Why? Because “customers connect with businesses when they identify with their stories.”
As it turns out, these are hardly new theories and, in fact, for a story to resonate with the reader (or listener), there’s a high probability that it fits one of six patterns.
“It’s the shape of the curve that matters.”
~ Kurt Vonnegut
University of Vermont researchers in artificial intelligence decided to build an experiment around a theory put forth by Kurt Vonnegut: That the stories that resonate best fit simple patterns and that one day computers would be able to identify those patterns.
The UV researchers fed nearly 2000 works of fiction from the Project Gutenberg library into an artificial intelligence. They found that, when you look at the emotional trajectory of a story, it will fall into one of six core story types.
In a longer, more complex story, you might see patterns repeat or more than one pattern appear. Regardless, the six core types are the ones found most often. (Even Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows fits the pattern! As do most sitcoms.)
Want to know which story type we reach for most? Cinderella.
If you’re getting ready to tell your own story, knowing how to construct the emotional trajectory can really help you reach your audience. We’re going to start talking about that in the TC Dojo Conclave soon.
For now, read the article for a deeper dive into the experiment and the conclusions they found. I was fascinated. (And Nancy Duarte’s observations started to seem a lot more obvious to me.)
You should watch the Vonnegut lecture that inspired the computer experiment, too. He’s a hoot!
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