catnav-interviews-active-3Post #228 – Memoir Writing Tiny Tip – Matilda Butler



Tiny Tip #3 Just for You

This is the third in a new (irregular) series of short blog posts designed to get you to focus on just one small point. I call them Tiny Tips.

Scroll to the bottom if you are interested in how this series got started.

Case in Point:

I read an article in Time Magazine that analyzed what makes a commercial memorable. (Okay. They were looking at Super Bowl advertisements, but this seems to apply to the broader issue of what makes one thing memorable and another not.) It turns out that a storyline developed under the influence of a five-act story structure is more compelling than fame (a celebrity) or pure sex appeal. Specifically Shakespeare’s five-act story structure.

Our research revealed that the basis of the top Super Bowl ads was having or following a five-act story structure—the one that Shakespeare used in his popular plays. Our study coded TV ads for following a five-part story based on 19th-century German novelist Gustav Freytag’s pyramid. He noticed common patterns in plots of stories and diagramed them.

The top spots in our Super Bowl ad analysis had all five acts of Freytag’s Pyramid:

–exposition: where characters, setting and background are introduced;

–rising action: a inciting moment that sets a series of actions into motion;

–climax: when complications lead to a movement of greatest tension and a major action;

–falling action: a reversal sets a series of events down toward the story’s end;

–denouement: a resolution to the inciting movement that explains all remaining unknowns.

Can an advertiser accomplish all this in a minute or less? Surprisingly our results revealed that a full five-act story could be told as a mini movie.

If you look back at the Super Bowl ad polls, you will see the top spots have full stories. These are the commercials that are talked about and remembered. Other commercials may get initial attention for being controversial for using sex appeal or celebrity, but then fade away finishing near the bottom of the Super Bowl Ad polls and loosing out on valuable buzz and recall.

For example, the first place in last year’s 2015 USA Today’s Ad Meter was Budweiser’s “Lost Dog”—a commercial with a full five-act story. It doesn’t hurt that the marketer is using a cute puppy, but 60 seconds of a puppy playing with a Budweiser bottle would not have been a hit.

How is “Lost Dog” a mini-movie? Act 1 introduces the farmer, the Clydesdales and a puppy on a farm. Act 2 features the puppy sneaking into the trailer and getting lost. Act 3 shows the puppy making it back home at night only to be threatened by a growling wolf. What will happen? The Clydesdales break out of their stalls and run up the hill to save their puppy friend, leading into Act 4, when the farmer awakes at sunrise to spot the puppy and the Clydesdales running up the farm drive. Act 5 shows the farmer welcoming the puppy home and sitting down with a Budweiser.

In contrast, T-Mobile’s Kim Kardashian “Save the Data” commercial delivered a single joke based on her celebrity and sex appeal and finished 59th out of 61 spots…

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Memoir Writers’ Tiny Tip #3

Memoir writers need to give attention to the structure of each scene as well as to the overall story. List Shakespeare’s five-act story structure on paper. Then for the next scene you are going to write, briefly outline what will happen in each act — filling in the spaces for the five acts. See it unfold in your mind. Then write it with full details. If an advertiser can tell a compelling and memorable five-act story in a minute or less, you should be able to do the same for your next scene.

Make each scene compelling and memorable. Let Shakespeare be your teacher.

And that’s what you need to do.

How This Tiny Tip Series Started

The idea for a series of short writing tips came to me while reading the program notes for a chamber music concert. I realized that many (well, ok, most) of my blog articles get to be long and often require you to do certain things — like write from prompts I’ve provided. And while I will continue with this type of longer article because I think they are of real value, I realized that sometimes as writers we just want a little bit of information or a small new idea or a thought stated differently. We don’t have a lot of time.

That’s the concept behind each Tiny Tip. Just a nugget to give you something to think about as you go through your busy day.

Enjoy.

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