Beyond Movies: Why Stories Matter in Business – Plot and Story

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For all of you who are wondering, “Hey, what happened to discussing screenwriting?,” don’t worry.  We’ll get back to it soon.  This is the second installment in a brief digression away from screenwriting into how to use storytelling to enhance your content marketing and business presentations.

Plot and Story.

Every good story has an arc from beginning to end that keeps it exciting and compelling as it moves toward its inevitable finish.  This organized and structured unspooling of information is the plot of your story.

The Plot is the backbone of your story.

A story is a journey.  It is a document of how your main character achieves her goals.  In every story, there is someone or something that wants to stop her.  This struggle between protagonist and antagonist, the ways in which your main character overcomes the obstacles preventing her from success, is the plot of your story.

Good plotting creates the expectations that enable you to command your audience’s attention.  A good plot asks the question that keeps your audience hooked while you present the information you want them to know.  A good plot makes an audience wonder, How will this story end…?

Fundamental Plot Structures.

Essentially, there are three forms a plot can take.

Man against Man.
Used in crime stories, action movies, sports dramas and even comedies and romances, there is an individual who wants to prevent your main characters from reaching his or her goal.

Man against Society
In social dramas, political thrillers, alien invasions and historical dramas, while there is a central antagonist, he or she represent an organization or group of people who must have their point of view change by your main character before your main character can triumph.

Man against himself
In tragedies, survival stories and psychological thrillers, the main character’s biggest threat comes from within him or herself.  And, ultimately, they are the cause of their own downfall.

Comedy and Drama

Story telling has existed for as long as human beings have walked the earth.  It is how information is related from one person to another, from generation to generation.

While delivery methods have changed, the way stories are told has not.  The kinds of stories and how they are told have remained constant through time across all cultures.

The power of story is in the emotion it conveys. 

The ability to transcend culture and opinions and prejudices is through emotion.  Regardless of who we are or where we are in the world, we all experiences joy, sorrow, loss, fear, anger, surprise and disgust the same.  It is the common link to our shared humanity.

While stories fall into different genres, the way they are told follows certain time-tested forms:

Tragedy

Pain and suffering are two undeniable human experiences.  At some point in our lives, we all experience setbacks and problems.  When we see it in others, we empathize with them.  We feel for them.  And when they triumph, we celebrate their joy.

In a tragedy, the main character makes a mistake somewhere along the way that brings his downfall upon himself.  From this demise, lessons are learned.

We identify with a character’s humanity because we all make mistakes.  We root for them because we love an underdog.  And we follow their stories because we want to see how they are going to turn out.

Tragedies usually take one of two forms.

Individual Tragedies are when a single character has a problem to solve.  This can be an action movie, a thriller or an historical drama.  Examples include: Die Hard, Gandhi, Hamlet and Othello.

Family Tragedies include all forms of families, groups and organizations.  It’s when a group of people have a problem they must face together.  Examples include: Animal House, The Avengers and The Godfather.

This story archetype can be used to create a need in your audience that inspires them to see a problem in a new light and understand how their action or inaction might contribute to that problem.  When presented correctly, a tragedy can inspire people to alter their behavior, join a cause or unite together to overcome a challenge.

Comedy

Comedic stories are about a normal and easily recognizable character who is presented with circumstances that she wants, only to discover that she can’t handle them.  These characters are usually not too deep or complex.  They have unique and distinct points of view that make them humorous.  And their journeys are filled with confusion and errors.  Yet in the end, their struggles provide them with lessons learned and the just rewards that they deserve.

Designed to elicit amusement and laughter, humor is the quality of that content while comedy is the delivery system.  Humor is observation.  Comedy is manipulation.

Humor highlights the absurdity of the existing world through an observer’s point of view.  Comedy is the active manipulation of that world.  In comedy, facts are exaggerate to make a story implausible and unexpected, which becomes funny when those obstacles are overcome.

In storytelling, humor is a funny bit of dialogue or action that makes us laugh and relieves the tension that exists at that specific moment in a story.  Comedy is the way the story is told.  The characters’ wants, their choices, actions and resulting confusion are designed to make a point about a specific theme or subject.

By exposing the foibles and follies of human nature and society, comedic storytelling juxtaposes implausible triumph over unexpected and even unpleasant circumstances.  The main characters are underdogs.  We root for them to win.  And when they do, their victories inspire our hope and reaffirm our belief systems.

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In the next essay, we’ll look at how these story archetypes can enhance and sharpen your content marking and business presentations.  After that, we’ll look at some examples of how you can apply these storytelling elements to your business and increase your chances for success!


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