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Fundamentals of storytelling with Star Wars examples

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the first step you have to take towards better presentation skills is to understand what makes a story a story and how to use that for presenting, communicating or pitching ideas. The updated presentation goes through the fundamentals and illustrates them with examples from original Star Wars trilogy. A quick checklist is provided at the end of the presentation.

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Fundamentals of storytelling with Star Wars examples

  1. 1. lack object of value conflict dramatic structure informationtime the basics you need to know before diving into storytelling world
  2. 2. with examples and references from original STAR WARS trilogy
  3. 3. with examples and references from original STAR WARS trilogy
  4. 4. everyone is looking for a universal formula to storytelling (and storytelling success of course) forgetting one simple truth – in humanitarian sciences stories and narratives have been analyzed for a really long time yielding interesting and enlightening results … STORY FUNDAMENTALS …
  5. 5. everyone is looking for a universal formula to storytelling (and success of course) forgetting one simple truth – in humanitarian sciences stories and narratives have been analyzed for a really long time yielding interesting and enlightening results … STORY FUNDAMENTALS … narratology, cultural studies, semiotics have been constructing theories and analytic frameworks around stories – it’s really worth taking the most common and simple findings as a starting point to gain a basic and yet fundamental understanding to what a story really is* * - everything that follows are watered-down narratological and semiotic concepts
  6. 6. WHY SO IMPORTANT? stories and storytelling have been around for as long as our cultural memory extends and only in the recent years we start to accept it’s ubiquitous presence in everything we do
  7. 7. stories have a tremendous impact on us it is paradoxical, but stories that we don’t believe in, i. e. fiction, are the ones that changes us and the world the most.
  8. 8. stories have a tremendous impact on us it is paradoxical, but stories that we don’t believe in, i. e. fiction, are the ones that changes us and the world the most. we experience stories we react to stories the same way we do to first-hand experiences – we have a unique capacity to learn from stories and an even more fascinating ability to organize knowledge as stories
  9. 9. the starting point for our journey through fundamental storytelling concepts is the human condition itself
  10. 10. picture reference: http://lang-8.com/537367/journals/202731510706269955316594453798102835813 even the smallest and the most disposable objects can have a story behind them – story that tells you something about the culture and cultural differences
  11. 11. this is the Japanese toothpick with a top that can be easily detached to A) show that the pick has been used B) to create a platform for delicately putting down the toothpick
  12. 12. this is the Japanese toothpick with a top that can be easily detached to A) show that the pick has been used B) to create a platform for delicately putting down the toothpick and such a small thing as a toothpick allows us to open up a story about cultural views and attitudes towards disposable objects or objects in general
  13. 13. SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS FLANNEL BALL STORY http://significantobjects.com/
  14. 14. After my friend Claude had his accident I went to visit him in the hospital. When I saw him I had to cough to divert a laugh. He looked like a guy in a cartoon, his entire body wrapped in bandages. He had broken everything that could be broken, from his skull to his toes. Somehow he was conscious and could speak, although to hear him I had to put my ear right up to his mouth-hole. I thought he said “door,” so I shut it, but he was still agitated. Eventually I got it: “drawer.” The one in his bedside stand contained a single object, a ball of wrapped flannel that looked like his head, only more colorful. I went to pick it up with my fingertips, but then had to readjust. Astonishingly, the thing weighed at least five pounds. I gaped at it, but Claude was making noises. I finally understood: “Don’t unwrap it.” <...> EXTRACT FROM FLANNEL BALL STORY
  15. 15. the best storytelling platform in the world. period PROJECT OF THE DAY ON 2015 07 23 https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mattbors/eat-more-comics-the-best-of-the-nib?ref=home_potd
  16. 16. the best storytelling platform in the world. period this is the one place to learn which stories succeed and which don’t
  17. 17. lack conflict dramatic structure informationtime we start with the essential driver behind any story worth telling
  18. 18. LACK is what defines the human nature – we constantly move, change places and roles, just because we feel a certain lack or craving, which at the moment of fulfillment is substituted with something else
  19. 19. equilibrium disrupted equilibrium journey restored equilibrium stories work in a strange way – it doesn’t matter where the narration starts (at the beginning, in the middle or at the end), one action or phase always presuppose something that comes before and something that will follow.
  20. 20. equilibrium disrupted equilibrium journey restored equilibrium stories work in a strange way – it doesn’t matter where the narration starts (at the beginning, in the middle or at the end), one action or phase always presuppose something that comes before and something that will follow. and if we accept that lack of something is a predetermined feature of a stories DNR, then we have to admit that there are four stages to it: being satisfied without the feeling of lack, being deprived or introduced to a new object of desire, putting effort to reach it and dealing with the acquisition or the failure
  21. 21. equilibrium disrupted equilibrium journey restored equilibrium usually the presupposed state in the story is a state of equilibrium where something is in balance and things are just the way they’re supposed to be.
  22. 22. LUKE SKYWALKER lives peacefully with his uncle and aunt and works as a moisture farmer (whatever that is)
  23. 23. equilibrium disrupted equilibrium journey restored equilibrium this is where the story really starts – with the disruption of the status quo, with the setting out to do the quest. Somebody is called out to act. The reasons for it might be numerous – both internal (personal will) and external (intimidation, necessity)
  24. 24. THE MESSAGE LUKE triggers the message from Leia requesting help from Kenobi
  25. 25. THE TRUTH LUKE talks to Kenobi, who tells him all about Dark Force, Jedi Knights, light sabers and his father.
  26. 26. equilibrium disrupted equilibrium journey restored equilibrium a journey should be understood as a transformation – it can be a physical one (going from point A to point B) or it can be inner one (changing from state A to state B)
  27. 27. THE JOURNEY LUKE sets out on a journey, because you can’t become a JEDI, if you stay at home, can you?
  28. 28. the most essential thing about story is the journey - there is no destination without a journey as there is no answer without a question JOURNEY …
  29. 29. transformation brings change and without change there is no story TRANSFORMATION …
  30. 30. THE TRANSFORMATION the LUKE that we see at the end of the movie is not the same as the one that beginning of his journey
  31. 31. equilibrium disrupted equilibrium journey restored equilibrium …and so there are stories that make us feel good and restore the disrupted equilibrium and there are those who show impossibility of such return to an innocent state
  32. 32. THE RESTORED STATE at the end of the original Star Wars trilogy everyone is enjoying a wild orgy-party in the wilderness. That’s some celebration.
  33. 33. stories rarely move in one direction – they develop both ways, at the same time as actions unfold we are constantly learning about the past as well – every journey presupposes both a destination and a reason STORIES FORWARDS AND BACKWARS … …
  34. 34. lack object of value conflict dramatic structure informationtime the concept of lack is directly related to the concept of object of value – something we pursue in our journey
  35. 35. OBJECT OF VALUE a certain thing we want to attain or achieve – that’s the object of value. The value part is about something that we want the object for. And usually we do not want the objects themselves, but something they provide us with or something they represent
  36. 36. lack always has an object and for different subjects within the story the same object can hold different value, which means that even if we are after the same thing, most probably we are not
  37. 37. THE NEED ARISES in one day LUKE learns that his father has been killed by the Evil Empire, his uncle and aunt gunned down by storm-troopers and the entire galaxy almost taken over by the evil emperor.
  38. 38. but what drives stories and make them exciting is not the fact that we try to achieve a certain object with particular value investments, but the fact that the same object holds value to somebody else as well … …
  39. 39. and this leads to conflict
  40. 40. lack object of value conflict dramatic structure informationtime stories are nothing more than a series of disrupted equilibriums when one character robs another of its object of value thus setting a never-ending number of journeys to restore the balance
  41. 41. CONFLICT conflict is the driving force behind a story – it is the possibility that the object of value that we are pursuing can be obtained by others. It also reflects the eternal imbalance in the world: with someone having something, it can not belong to others. And thus, starts the CONFLICT.
  42. 42. what is desirable in life is not something that is desired in fiction THE (UN)ORDINARY … nobody is interested in experiencing the expected everyday outcomes in simple situations filled with calm certainty …
  43. 43. INNER VS OUTER what the conflict brings to the story is the uncertainty of outcomes. It is what thrills us and allows us to get lost in the story.
  44. 44. THE CONFLICT the STAR WARS are about the eternal struggle between the DARK and the LIGHT side of the force THE DARK VS THE LIGHT SIDE
  45. 45. THE CONFLICT THE EMPIRE VS THE REBELS it is also about the more immediate struggle between the rebels and the empire which in its own turn represents struggle between dictatorship and democracy
  46. 46. THE CONFLICT FATHER VS SON and on a most personal level it is a family reconciliation drama and it’s a story of choosing a path
  47. 47. COMPETITION is all about two subjects trying to prove which one possesses the right competences to acquire the object of value. Most of the stories can be translated as a sequences of obtaining/perfecting/proving competence … …
  48. 48. lack object of value conflict dramatic structure informationtime the conflict becomes a much more engaging endeavor when it follows a particular dramatic pattern
  49. 49. DRAMATIC STRUCTURE conflict is what makes the story exciting, but it alone doesn’t explain why we stick with some stories for as long as they last. And there’s a repetitive pattern that can be found in stories as ancient as the ancient epic poems (take Beowulf as an example) that remains unaltered up to these days.
  50. 50. DRAMATIC STRUCTURE 1 2 3 4 this particular dramatic structure is the most frequently employed in stories (from blockbusters to biographies or even academic papers)
  51. 51. DRAMATIC STRUCTURE 1 2 3 4 the need for at least two dramatic arcs within a narrative can by explained by universal structure of tests that the hero has to go through to prove that he/she is a real hero
  52. 52. 1 2 3 4 CHALLENGES OR TESTS: QUALIFYING DECISIVE GLORYFYING the hero has to qualify for his role or gain the necessary skill/competences to obtain the object of value, the hero has to overcome the main obstacle the hero has to be recognized for his achievement both ancient and modern narratives follow the same logic – the consecutive tests that the hero goes through provide the chance to have a narrative twist (as in why does the action film hero has to be captured in every single movie)
  53. 53. LOSE* - as in fails to lift the spaceship out of the water
  54. 54. WIN* - as in manages to knock Vader down
  55. 55. LOSE* - as in lose your hand type of lose
  56. 56. WIN* - as in this time I manage to cut off my father’s hand
  57. 57. LOSE* - as in the Emperor is a bigger badass
  58. 58. WIN* - as in Vader throwing down the EMPEROR
  59. 59. what the conflict brings to the story is the uncertainty of outcomes. It is what thrills us and allows us to get lost in the story. UNCERTAINTY … in other words, the hero needs to repetitively prove that he’s the hero
  60. 60. lack object of value conflict dramatic structure informationtime the feeling of uncertainty is further reinforced due to the way the storyteller handles information in his/her story
  61. 61. INFORMATION the delivery of information is what manipulates our feeling of certainty/uncertainty, the expected and the unexpected
  62. 62. stories are not about telling something, but more about hiding something up until the time when it’s right to reveal it TELLING OR HIDING …
  63. 63. expose hide reveal interfere storyteller might use different strategies for distributing information to the listener/viewer
  64. 64. expose hide reveal interfere storyteller might use different strategies for distributing information to the listener/viewer the storyteller directly reveals information to the listeners/viewers the storyteller provides the missing pieces of the puzzle, that still require active participation form the listener/viewer the storyteller doesn’t reveal or hint at the presence of information the storyteller hints at the presence of information, but doesn’t allow to fully comprehend it
  65. 65. what makes the difference is not what we say, but what we don’t ...
  66. 66. THE MAN BEHIND THE MASK? the mystery of Darth Vader is hidden in plain sight – we only discover who he truly is only at the very end of the original saga
  67. 67. “LUKE, I’M YOUR FATHER” the real drama of Star Wars trilogy lies within the fact that Obi told Luke that his father was killed by Vader, when in fact Vader is Luke’s father. And of course Vader finds the perfect moment to reveal this to Luke just after severing his hand in battle MOMENT
  68. 68. lack object of value conflict dramatic structure informationtime a more specific form of manipulation with information on the part of the storyteller is the manipulation of time
  69. 69. TIME so storyteller primarily works with time – by stretching and expanding it, working with actions sequences, postponing and rushing ahead
  70. 70. extended time condensed time the storyteller works with time: the time can be expanded when one moment takes forever and it can be condensed when a single sentence covers a decade
  71. 71. extended time future condensed time past the storyteller works with time: the time can be expanded when one moment takes forever and it can be condensed when a single sentence covers a decade the storyteller also works with the sequence of events – most of the stories we experience aren‘t linear
  72. 72. THE NARRATIVE BEING TOLD A B C D E F B F E C D STORYLINE (most often) from the very moment the storyteller starts telling his story, the linearity of the story breaks down and the chronological sequence gets distorted
  73. 73. WHEN SAYING GOODBEYE TAKES AS LONG AS THE WHOLE JEDI TRAINING
  74. 74. stories rarely move in one direction – they develop both ways, at the same time as actions unfold we are constantly learning about the past as well ATEMPORAL … …
  75. 75. we are not interested in hearing linear stories (things like chronological histories). This is due to the time constrains – the story told can not be as long as the actual recounted events. Human ingenuity finds way of how to condense a story in a more compact format. Story is a condensation of meaning. CONDENSED … …
  76. 76. lack object of value conflict dramatic structure informationtime these are the essential building blocks of the story – let’s dive further
  77. 77. STORY AND PRESENTATION CHECKLIST
  78. 78. Show what the promised land looks like ESTABLISH YOUR OBJECT OF VALUE
  79. 79. Have your own empire, dragon or terminator to take down DEFINE THE CONFLICT
  80. 80. Describe how to get to the promised land DEFINE THE JOURNEY
  81. 81. STORY AND PRESENTATION CHECKLIST Have your own empire, dragon or terminator to take down DEFINE CONFLICT Show what the promised land looks like ESTABLISH YOUR OBJECT OF VALUE Describe how to get to the promised land DEFINE THE JOURNEY
  82. 82. Have your own “Luke I am your father” moment MANAGE INFORMATION
  83. 83. Defeat the small guy, then fight the big one MANAGE TENSION
  84. 84. Take as much time as you need MANAGE THE PACE OF THE STORY
  85. 85. STORY AND PRESENTATION CHECKLIST Defeat the small guy, then fight the big one Have your own “Luke I am your father” moment Have your own empire, dragon or terminator to take down MANAGE TENSION MANAGE INFORMATION DEFINE CONFLICT Show what the promised land looks like ESTABLISH YOUR OBJECT OF VALUE Describe how to get to the promised land DEFINE THE JOURNEY Take as much time as you need MANAGE THE PACE OF THE STORY

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