|Hello Space, Goodbye Time|
There’s a strong impulse right now to organize stories by space, rather than time. Check out This American Life’s Story Globe, or the various wings of Localore. It seems a natural extension of our communication technologies to map our environments with stories, and (attempt) to chronicle the fantastic volume of human experience that takes place all around us, all the time.
I think this trend in storytelling is also part of a broader cultural move towards organizing our lives according to space (eating local foods, supporting local economies). But the impulse to put a story on a map can be taken one step further; it can be applied to the structure of a story itself. You can organize a story by the space in which it took place, rather than by the order in which it unfolded in time. Careful, though: when space becomes the supporting structure of your story, you’re unlikely to end up with a traditional narrative arc. And if you don’t have that, then you might have to find something else to keep your listeners in their seats.
|X because Y, but Z|
I was always averse to studying the elements of a story. I still remember a kind of icky feeling from 7th grade, when I first learned the basic plot diagram (you know, initial events, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement - don’t forget the second “e”) because let’s be honest, stories don’t really HAPPEN according to a pre-set formulas... right?
But once I actually started telling stories, I realized that formulas are extremely helpful. It’s a big part of why I write these blogposts. So today I am going to write about a formula that is used in many stories — and prove to you why, even though stories don't occur according to formulas, formulas can still be your friend.
Here’s the formula: “Someone does something because, but...”
I picked up this week’s nugget of storytelling gold from Rob Rosenthal, the producer/teacher behind the podcast How Sound. He pulled it from a CBC style book (That's "Canadian Broadcasting Company"), and in order to help unpack it, I'll give you an even more distilled version of the formula: “X because Y, but Z”