Saturday, June 11, 2016

Too Much Marketing, Too Little Storytelling

Mania for narrative persuasion has sanctified storytelling.

But merely mentioning your company's name less in your copy doesn't make you J.K. Rowling.

Most marketers are storyteller manqués.

"There’s just too much marketing the old way, and too little storytelling," says journalist-turned-marketer Tomas Kellner.

Storytelling takes an understanding of story arc.

Story arcs deliver "the pleasure of pity," said the 18th century playwright and philosopher Friedrich Schiller.

We're led to pity when we learn about other people's suffering. But for the listener to feel pity, the storyteller must:

  • Provide vivid details. Because suffering told can't equal suffering witnessed, to provoke pity the storyteller's details must be vivid.
  • Make the characters accessible. To feel pity, the listener must experience a resemblance between herself and the sufferer, Schiller says. "Where this resemblance is lacking, pity is impossible."
  • Provide tons of details. To work, the story must be complete, Schiller says. No important detail can be left out. "We must have unrolled before us, without a single link omitted, the whole chain of determinations."
  • Draw the story out. The suffering must be durable. The listener wants to flee suffering, but shouldn't be allowed to do so too soon.
Storytelling isn't designed to teach, Schiller says. That's what history lessons are for. Storytelling is meant "to move us, and to charm our souls."

Literary agent Julian Friedmann tells it well:

Make the audience feel pity for a character. Then make the audience experience increasing amounts of fear for the character, as you put the character through increasingly worse circumstances. Finally, release the audience from the tension of anticipating the terrible things that are going to happen to that character, and the audience feels great.

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