Narratives from the real world.

I was listening to a Storywonk podcast today, more than a month behind as usual. This time, Lani and Alastair were talking about reality television, and some of the ways producers set up the shows so that no matter what the participants do or who wins, some kind of a natural narrative will flow naturally. They also mentioned that professional sports are set up in somewhat the same way, which naturally made me think of this cartoon:

Original Alt text by Randall Munroe: Also, all financial analysis. And, more directly, D&D.

The three elements of narrative structure that Lani and Alastair pointed out about reality TV, sports, and also politics are obvious, but worth thinking about a moment for writers:

  1. Give the various people or sides involved a goal that they’ll all want – lots of money, being considered ‘winners’ in the eyes of the country, a major label record deal, or running a government.
  2. Set up challenges in such a way that only one can win the goal.
  3. Establish a fixed time during with the winner and losers will be decided.

As I’m typing this, I’m actually reminded of the seventh-season Buffy the Vampire episode ‘Storyteller’, where Buffy told Andrew that he was trying to make everything into a story and himself as the hero, but it wasn’t a story, it was real life. (Of course, from our point of view, it’s obviously real life, not a story.) But I think that even internally in the Buffyverse, any of the Scooby Gang’s or Angel Investigations’ struggles against dark forces fit the requirements for a narrative. Joss would have it no other way, of course.

One Response to Narratives from the real world.

  1. Nils says:

    I loved that episode, too. As someone who doesn’t watch reality TV, it was really interesting for me to hear this very distilled, very clear approach to creating solid conflict. Which was something I was struggling with at that moment, and it helped my plot tremendously. So thanks for this post!


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