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The Shapes of Successful Stories

To have a better chance of engaging the masses with your social media and content strategies, it’s important to master the art of storytelling. What makes a great story? There may be no better place to draw inspiration, than from professional authors, script writers, film directors and other successful story tellers.

Are you a fan of Kurt Vonnegut? Mr. Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors, and a successful American writer, artist and anthropologist, who could teach us all a thing or two about storytelling. In fact, he developed the “Shapes of Stories” model which is a beautifully simple, well-crafted and witty visualization of the way common stories unfold into the final denouement. Here is the classic presentation on the silver screen:

Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories

The x-axis plots the course of the story from beginning to end, where the y-axis represents the emotional roller-coaster the characters go through between positive and negative outcomes. Here you can see how the different stories eventually take shape. This handy infographic summarizes the different shapes and approaches outlined by Kurt, but do yourself a favor and watch the entertaining clip above where Kurt presents this in his own quirky yet amicable style.

The Shapes of Stories by Kurt Vonnegut[via iabuk]

The concept is simple. The “Man in Hole” theme starts out high, like every Harold & Kumar flick, and then the characters eventually come into some turmoil only to rise again eventually in the end. Or maybe it’s a “Boy Meets Girl” love tale with a similar trajectory. Other stories like the creepy Twilight Zone series, just seem to go “From Bad to Worse,” or like the Sopranos show, where nothing really ever happens leaving you to wonder, “Which Way is Up?”

How can we apply this to our daily lives? It’s important to remember that story telling makes us more engaging, thus better communicators! Think about this the next time you write a new post or present a strategy or new ideas to people. After all the best presentations, manage to captivate our attention with a confident and gripping story line. Or consider this as a useful frame of reference when planning the emotional journey you want your audience to visualize.
 
How are you using stories to shape the success of your business?

   
 
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