Saturday, 25 August 2012

TED talk: The Clues to a Great Story

Just watched this great talk on TED about storytelling:


Here are some of the main points transcribed:
  • The children's television host Mr. Rogers always carried in his wallet a quote from a social worker that said, "Frankly, there isn't anyone you couldn't learn to love once you've heard their story."
 
  • It's making a promise to you that this story will lead somewhere that's worth your time. And that's what all good stories should do at the beginning, is they should give you a promise.
  • A well told promise is like a pebble being pulled back in a slingshot and propels you forward through the story to the end.
 
  • ...the audience actually wants to work for their meal. They just don't want to know that they're doing that. That's your job as a storyteller, is to hide the fact that you're making them work for their meal. We're born problem solvers. We're compelled to deduce and to deduct, because that's what we do in real life. It's this well-organized absence of information that draws us in...it's like a magnet. We can't stop ourselves from wanting to complete the sentence and fill it in.
  • Make the audience put things together. Don't give them four, give them two plus two. The elements you provide and the order you place them in is crucial to whether you succeed or fail at engaging the audience.
    Stories are inevitable, if they're good, but they're not predictable.
 
  • ...all well-drawn characters have a spine. And the idea is that the character has an inner motor, a dominant, unconscious goal that they're striving for, an itch that they can't scratch. She gave a wonderful example of Michael Corleone, Al Pacino's character in "The Godfather," and that probably his spine was to please his father. And it's something that always drove all his choices. Even after his father died, he was still trying to scratch that itch.
 
  • When you're telling a story, have you constructed anticipation? In the short-term, have you made me want to know what will happen next? But more importantly, have you made me want to know how it will all conclude in the long-term? Have you constructed honest conflicts with truth that creates doubt in what the outcome might be? An example would be in "Finding Nemo," in the short tension, you were always worried, would Dory's short-term memory make her forget whatever she was being told by Marlin. But under that was this global tension of will we ever find Nemo in this huge, vast ocean?
  • [On Lawrence of Arabia] That was the theme: Who are you? Here were all these seemingly disparate events and dialogues that just were chronologically telling the history of him, but underneath it was a constant, a guideline, a road map. Everything Lawrence did in that movie was an attempt for him to figure out where his place was in the world. A strong theme is always running through a well-told story.
 
  • I walked out of there wide-eyed with wonder. And that's what I think the magic ingredient is, the secret sauce, is can you invoke wonder. Wonder is honest, it's completely innocent. 
I think a lot of these ideas can apply directly to 3-Act-Math #3Acts. I will write a follow-up soon with my thoughts.