Masters in Story Theory1
What is a story? Why do stories exist?
Your mind is made from narrative. Life events are narrative. Everything you know only has meaning in a narrative context. In this first section, using entertaining examples from well known books, films, television series and theatre productions, we get to understand linguistics and how stories trigger the mental reflexes we use to make memories.
If you happen to be in advertising or politics you will also learn how stories can be crafted in slightly more insidious ways to plant memories into your receiver's mind. It is THAT powerful.
You will understand in simple, intuitive terms the overlap between the power in a story and how the mind works.
Oh, and what is a story? A story is any form of communication which has knowledge gaps in it's content.
Masters in Story Theory2
Knowledge Gaps and Subtext
Once we understand the mental reflexes involved in how we remember things, we learn the basic substance of story and how to use it to trigger those reflexes.
The writer encodes knowledge gaps into the narrative. Gaps in knowledge are an evolutionary alarm signal for risk, so we become engaged and take ownership of the narrative the instant there is a gap to fill. The receiver builds the story for themselves in their own mind by providing the knowledge that goes into the gaps from their own knowledge and experience.
And get this: The knowledge that goes into the gap is called.... Subtext.
It's as simple and as beautiful as that.
What is the difference between story and narrative?
A narrative is any event of change over time. A story is only ever in mind. There are no stories 'out there' in the world, just millions of narratives. The story is the phenomenon we build in mind as a result of interpreting a narrative. A story includes human cultural meaning over and above simple logical progression of change over time. A story has meaning to the receiver.
In section 2, using well know story examples, the light begins to shine on the critical role that narrative plays in how our mind works, and exactly how every story gets its power to make you love it, take ownership and feel gripped.
Take a look at the image below. Did you instinctively fill in the gaps to create a narrative progression from it? This is what we do, for every beat, scene, chapter, subplot - or whole story. And we do it the time.
Masters in Story Theory3
Common Story Dynamics
The writer works with knowledge gaps in order that the receiver can work with subtext.
As a writer, you must flip your thinking. It's not about the words you write, it's about the gaps in the meaning in the words you write. You shouldn't be admiring the brilliance in your use of English, you should be admiring how you have crafted the knowledge gaps. THAT is great writing. It's the knowledge gaps that trigger the receiver into joining in. They have to do some of the work to prodice the story in their own mind for themselves. And they LOVE it! THAT is a story driven by subtext. The more gaps there are, the more the audience has to contribute and take ownership, and the more they love your story.
To make our understanding of the substance of every story clear, we now look at the knowledge gap characteristics of the most common story dynamics. Conflict, Morality, The Major Dramatic Arc, Comedy, Aristotle's Principles and much more. All become clear and usable through examples and interactive exercises.
As you get your head around knowledge gaps and the role they play in these dyanamics, the quality of the story they compose becomes measurably evident. The more gaps there are and the more subtext there is, the higher the public rating of the story.
NOW you will see the knowledge gaps and subtext in EVERY story. NOW you will see the power in YOUR story. Knowledge gaps WILL be there, because knowledge gaps and subtext are the power in every story, ever told.
Knowledge gaps and subtext are the substance of every story and the source of all story power.
Masters in Story Theory4
Characters are, of course, central to everything in story. You HAVE to understand character to understand story.
This section focuses on character motivation, protagonism, antagonism, morality, meaningful conflict, inner and outer arcs, character growth and the six questions you should ask of each of your characters.
We also find out how it is that plot and character... follow me carefully now... are one and the same thing... Because the actions and decisions a character takes define who they truly are. And the actions a character takes also define what happens. And what happens delivers the plot. Once your writing achieves this beautiful confluence of a plot driven by the authentic choices of your characters... Wow. Your writing suddenly transforms on to a whole new dimension.
Character actions are the medium that the writer uses to communicate with the receiver.
When you perceive problems in a story, they will almost certainly be in the character area. Understanding all about characters empowers you to make knowledgeable adjustments to the narration that power up the story.
Masters in Story Theory5
Storification - The Secret Sauce
What are the three roles in EVERY story EVER?!
The author frames and orientates the audience, the characters take their actions in real-time in the story world, and the receiver interprets a narrative, fills the gaps with subtext and creates meaning in mind.
Obvious really, right?! Makes sense.
When a receiver of a story turns the logic in a narrative progression into meaning in mind, this process is called Storification.
Storification is the secret sauce. The ultimate power in EVERY story.
It sounds complicated, but by using childrens' stories, short films and lots of well-known story examples, you will fully understand how it works. How can I be so sure?
Because I will cause you to experience storification in your own mind.
Storification relies on the capability of the receiver. They have to do the work to make meaning in mind and THEN they get the story.
That's why, if you watch some Shakespeare with a 2-year-old, you will get a very different story in your mind from what they get. They are not capable of doing the work required of the receiver. This is what you must learn how to do. DRIVE the mind of the receiver so they build your story for themselves in their own mind - and they build it from the gaps you left them to fill.
Note how this differs from traditional story theory. Instead of talking about key questions and turning points on page 27 and spirit guides giving the hero advice - all that formulaic nonsense - we are recognising that the power of a story lies in what it means to the receiver. The psychology in the conversation between an author and a receiver. That is a story's real powerbase... and you will understand how that power is crafted into place by the media in every story: character actions, choices and behaviours.
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From Story Seed to Silver Screen
OK, so by the end of the book, you have a complete understanding of HOW stories work. You will see every story from now in in the context of its knowledge gap dynamics - it will be like looking at an exploded view of a story engine turning over. It's SUCH a wonderful thing to see and feel a story through this lens, and very exciting to write using gaps rather than words!
There are only around 40 knowledge gaps that comprise every story ever made. Throughout history and off into the future - and YOUR story. Every single one is made from knowledge gaps. You will soon start to see them as your toolbox for story creation.
And to help this process, I wrote a story from scratch. I take you on the full story development process, from the first seed of the original idea, identifying the power in the inspiration, becomes a premise, developed into the step outline, from which you can see the final script coming to life... You will see the whole story blossom and grow and you will gain EXCLUSIVE access to the finished film itself. The glorious final product. The story has power you can see. And yet there is no conflict. No 'bad guy'. No dialogue. None of the traditional things you are told you must have. But you will fully understand how it works.
The point being, you can see how a story can improve and grow over time through knowledgeable developments which have a clear, designed, objective intent in terms of what happens in the mind of the receiver. You can have that knowledge and elevate a story through changes you will clearly see are of benefit to the final story.