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The Storyteller’s 101

Written by: Florian October 19, 2012  

With the rise of social media, the relevance of stories in brand communication has grown steadily. As people do not follow advertising channels, brands are forced to tell fascinating and compelling stories to their communities rather than shooting buying requests at demographic segments. Due to this evolution, brands need to create new job profiles such as brand journalists or social media editors.

For these brand storytellers, it is essential to understand the structure of stories. It is much easier to create story ideas and to design storyboards, when the main structure definitions are made prior to the creative process.

coUNDco developed a story matrix that divides stories into three relevant dimensions:
– is the story narrative or descriptive?
– is the story linear or fragmented?
– is the story told by a single narrator or in a collaborative set of various tellers?

The answers to these three questions generate a matrix with three axes and eight story types. Each cube in the image below has its own characteristics. The right half of the matrix is representing fictional stories and the left side of the matrix is rather factional.

story matrix, perspective, dramaturgy

The coloured boxes in the matrix are showing the most popular story types:
– yellow: descriptive, factional and linear stories told by a single narrator (eg. newspaper articles, professional articles, most of brand and corporate contents)
– red: narrative, fictional and linear stories told by a single narrator (eg. novels, movies, etc.)
– green: fragmented and fictional stories told by various narrators (eg. transmedia stories with user generated contents)

Example 1: Bing.com launches the book project of Jay-Z.
Narrative, fragmented story by a single narrator.

Example 2: Game of Thrones movie launch.
Narrative, fragmented story by various narrators.

Besides the matrix, the perspective of the narrator is crucial for the story. Is a neutral narrator telling the story? Will the story be told by a first-person narrator? Or is it an auctorial narration with an omniscient teller, or a personal narrative from the perspective of a character?

Last but not least, the dramaturgy and the tension make a story thrilling and grasping. Where is the story turning from good times to bad ones? Where are the breaches and the conflicts which the main character needs to solve or to survive? Changes and the way the main character grows with the challenges, are what drives the stories.

How this knowledge of the structure of stories can be adapted to brand storytelling will be explored in a future box network blog post. Stay tunned.

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