As researchers of narrative, we are often asked by writers how our work can inform their practice. In other words, people want to know if empirical research can tell them how to write a better story. For the most part, I’ve not known how to reply to this question and offer up the verbal equivalent of a shrug. After all, I think the last time I wrote a piece of fiction was probably a decade ago, unless you account my more theoretical papers. Susanne Kinnebrock (Aachen) and Helena Bilandzic (Erfurt), however, have tackled this question directly. In a paper presented at an International Communication Association conference, the two discuss explicitly how psychological theories and research might be incorporated into the writing of compelling stories. Specifically, they combine insight from Melanie Green’s (UNC-Chapel Hill) Transportation Imagery model of narrative persuasion with traditional theorizing on narrativity, in order to isolate those factors they believe increase the likelihood that a story will be engaging. These factors operate at all different levels of a story, from the raw plot points to the way these situations are portrayed in a film or novel. To highlight a few of their proposals, these authors argue that engaging stories should portray events that have lasting consequences, are unique and involve conflict, while representing characters who develop and evolve over time in a way that is likely to evoke emotions in the reader through the artistry of the presentation. As always, we would be happy to send a copy of this paper to those who are interested (e-mail available in my profile).
Kinnebrock, S. & Bilandzic, H. (2006). How to make a story work: Introducing the concept of narrativity into narrative persuasion. Presented at the International Communication Association conference in Dresden.
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