Friday, November 19, 2010

Create Engagement with Compelling Signification

This essay is an excerpt from a longer article on Story/Message Theory, originally published November 14, 2010. To read the original article in full, click the link. Links to other excerpts follow at the conclusion of this entry.


Moroccan Stop Sign: By David Ooms
Some suggest Story is inherent in our DNA or wired into our brains, but I've not seen evidence of this. It certainly makes for a very good story, as they say. But if it's true, the next question must be: What do we mean by Story? What is the structure and anatomy of Story? And are we really talking about Story or something else? Not every human experience needs to fit into a Story box in order to be validated as cognitively significant. Nor is every empathic interaction evidence of our being involved in a Story.

In other words before we can accept any claim to a unified theory of Story, we must have a unified theory of Story.

As to whether or not humans are biologically wired for Story, I'm not sure. However, I can reasonably accept the theory of Archetypes, whereby primal urges –say an instruction or urge to action– become manifest as simple forms of communication, and which eventually take initial form as symbols.

Signs, whether spoken or illustrated exemplify highly effective messaging systems that influence behavior and drive action.

Then, once a concept is born as a sign, it acquires memetic potential. If acted upon narrative is born and further develops until satiety is declared. So perhaps best to suggest that Narrative develops out of signification, and that Signification gives birth to Story.

Consider a Stop sign, or take the word 'Help', for instance:

The word 'Help' never comes at the end of a Story. If anything, 'Help' is the first word of a pretty gripping Story.

No one says: "La, I was walking down the street, minding my own business, humming a little song, when I got hit by a car, and now I'm hurt badly, in a great deal of pain, I might even be dying, and oh, by the way, I need your help."

To the contrary: If you want help, it’s the first thing out of your mouth, and you must deliver the word with a rather convincing and compelling cry, all in caps so to speak: 'HELP!' –And only then, if your audience is suitably compelled, do they run to your assistance, at which time you can be sure that they will then listen to the details of your Story, and with full and complete attention, senses overloaded, highly alert, highly receptive and definitely interested.

'HELP!' It turns out, is not just a pretty good hook, but also an effective call to action.

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Articles in this series:

Story/Message Theory (Original full length article)
What is a Story?
The Parable/Fable Framework as Story Algorithm
The Story/Message Theory Construct
So It Goes: Vonnegut's Law
The Power of Effective Messaging
Create Engagement with Compelling Signification
Elevator Pitch: Speed Dating Signification
Static Symbolic Accentuating Triggers
Story is Dead
Leading with Message Signification
Non Linear Cross Platform Transmedia Storytelling
Mythology and Messaging

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