Monday, November 15, 2010

The Parable/Fable Framewok as Story Algorithm

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.


Beauty and Beast: By Giovana Medeiros
Story/Message Theory describes Story as a Data Set whose sequenced points are connected by meaning (Theme) and then analyzed via Narrative with the intention of eventually producing a 'Message'.

We might even say message drives Narrative, but is only explicitly stated at any given Story's conclusion.

As a parallel concept:

Story/Message Theory essentially distills the Parable/Fable Story Framework into a fundamental algorithm, with the aim of producing an standardized, replicable creative strategy for the employment of objective based Story Experiences.

But while providing a unique perspective of Story, this strategy is hardly a new construction. For as it happens, Parables and Fables share an identical framework. Their main difference being that the former excludes fantasy figures while the latter relies upon them. But the underlying process is the same. And by consolidating the pair, we  produce a strong Story model that has already been time tested across many, many centuries.

Story/Message Theory further suggests that the Parable/Fable formula serves as the model from which all Stories are formed and their construction measured. Working backwards, within in this construction, Stories are solely defined a Narrative informed by Message.

Narrative is defined as simply a Data Sequence, being formed from an identifiable Data Set. A Data Set in this case indicates a collection of events, incidents or concepts; concepts being all the items one might include in a given Story World. The Data Set itself, however, is not a Story,  though it might indicate one the same way a picture, a list, a recipe or a map indicates a Story. Additionally, those items within the set useful to the author's intent must be sequenced or otherwise connected by Theme in order to fully represent a Story.

Therefore, unlike other models, in the Story/Message model, Narrative is never synonymous with Story. While others may use the word Story as a synonym for Narrative we will not follow this convention. In our model, Narrative provides an incomplete and unfulfilled Story experience, because Narrative alone lacks a point.

This is not to say Narrative alone also fails as an alternate work of art or experience. Only that it does not fulfill the full requirement for Story within the Story/Message model.

Message is defined as a lesson, proverb, maxim, saying or command or a suggested way to behave in order to insure maxim happiness or maintain survival. Also, a compact expression of a general truth or rule of conduct (; the distillation of wisdom from a given folkloric culture; or as Cervantes writes of proverbs: "a short sentence which is the fruit of a long term experience."

Message suggests 'the point' of the Story: why is the Story being told? And what is the lesson learned?

In general, many will argue that Stories don't require lessons. Nevertheless, within this model the Narrative analysis of the data must result in a 'Message'. Indeed, within the Story/Message model, Storytelling and Data Analysis might be considered synonymous with each other.

Either way, Story/Message model defines Story fully conceived as an Objective based art form, i.e., Strategic Storytelling; Storytelling with specific purpose. Moreover, by creating a framework we can better understand why some Stories fall short of delivering a desired impact.

For instance:  

You lived; you died; you did some stuff in between.

This Narrative suggests a Data Sequence, but it's missing a Theme or an Objective that drives Narrative towards Message delivery.In other words, one's chronology, no matter how detailed, lacks the requirement for Story (under our model).

However, we can take the same exact life and frame it in another manner that does:  

You were born into squalor; against all odds and doubt you rose above your place; you achieved great things and fulfilled your destiny. Along the way you realized that with great effort comes great reward.

That is a Story.

Objective Messaging transforms Narrative into memorable, compelling Stories.

Further parsing permits all other commonly understood aspects of Literary Structure, be they Plot, Purpose, Setup, Conflict, Thematic Patterning or any other element, so long as the fully completed Story structure contains both a Narrative and Message. Lacking one or the other, we are left with only a Story element, or a Story form belonging to another model, or something else altogether.

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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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