January 15, 2017

The Mystery Of Storytelling - Or Notes On How To Control Your Audience

Just watched this really interesting Ted Talk by Julian Friedmann about the art of storytelling, in particular with regards to movies (and, even more so, how Hollywood's managed to apply it so successfully over the years). So here are a couple of my notes for you (see below for the full video):

  1. Storytelling is about the audience more so than the story or the storyteller, for great stories define us, reflect who we are or wish to become.
  2. To be able to control your audience (this can only be done through emotions), you need to have them feel for the following:
    1. Pity - through an undeserved misfortune, for instance, so that we, the audience, can emotionally connect with the character, identify with it.
    2. Fear - by putting that character (in essence us) through worse and worse situations
    3. Catharsis - by releasing the hero from all these fears; this release then results in the PEA chemical (the chemical also present when consuming any of the following: speed, ecstasy, chocolate or sex, for example) being released into our bloodstream, making us feel happy.
  3. Main reasons why so many American movies are so popular around the world:
    1. Accessible characters the audience will get emotionally involved with.
    2. Upbeat endings if possible (happy endings statistically perform better--again, thanks to the PEA chemical).
    3. Less dialogue as the movie will the appeal to wider audiences (don't have to have a PhD to get the story and be involved in it), which is directly tied to the next two points.
    4. Tell stories more visually. We believe what we see, not so much what we hear. So if you manage to show something that differs from what's being said, you'll immediately get the audience awake and involved in the story, because they'll see right away something off.
    5. More music. Again, this will strengthen the audience's emotional bond to the story.
The key, really, is to entertain the audience, because, when we're looking at the screen, we're actually looking at ourselves. We are the heroes of your stories.

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