Join Bill Shander for an in-depth discussion in this video Story structure, part of Data Visualization: Storytelling.
- [Voiceover] As I've mentioned many times before, for thousands of years humans have communicated via stories. We know what stories look, feel, and sound like, which means stories have predictable attributes. So if you want to tell stories, even data stories, you have to be able to define what that means. Lisa Cron's book Wired for Story has a great definition for what a story is, what those attributes are. Lisa sums up the definition of story like this. "A story is how what happens affects someone "who is trying to achieve what turns out to be "a difficult goal and how he or she changes as a result." So to break that down a bit more into four key things, a story is how what happens, that's the plot, affects someone, the protagonist, who's trying to achieve what turns out to be a difficult goal, this is the story problem, the challenge the protagonist faces, and how he or she changes as a result, the so what.
So a story has a beginning, middle, and end, and every story has a plot, protagonist, challenge and transformation, which is the real so what. And so as I've said before, quoting Michael Austin, "The other critical aspect of a good story is anxiety. "That story problem and that transformation is always "experienced by the reader as anxiety "and the resolution of anxiety." And the reason stories have a beginning, middle, and end, is because humans literally can't do two things at once. We've all heard the studies at this point that prove that we can't multi-task.
And if you think about it, again, using the caveman example, those stories around the campfire were told by speaking. Storytelling for thousands of years was purely oral tradition, then came drawings on cave walls. In both cases, you can't absorb more than one thing at a time. So if you think about it, stories are linear, step-by-step things. They literally can't be anything else. So the more linear an experience is, the more it feels like a story to the audience. Keep this in mind. What does linearity do? Primarily, linear storytelling, starting at the beginning and moving to a conclusion, mimics real life.
We can relate to things in two-dimensional time. But in a less silly explanation, the beginning sets the context for what we're about to hear, the middle explains what's going on, allowing us to wander and explore the universe of ideas being presented and get introduced to the anxieties that need resolving, and the conclusion, hopefully, resolves those anxieties, teaching us how to solve problems and what transformation characters have to go through to do so. So I hope you can see this. This logical flow is almost the only form a great story can take.
This doesn't mean sometimes people can't experiment with the form. Sometimes, where the plot unravels in reverse, or in infographics, where the elements of the story might be there, but the audience might not read it in order, they'll mentally reconstruct it back into the normal order, even when presented backwards in a non-linear format. The point is that your audience knows what a story consists of, how it unfolds, what it feels like, so when storytelling with data, always go back to these critical concepts and make sure you're including all of them.
Join data visualization expert Bill Shander as he guides you through the process of turning "facts and figures" into "story" to engage and fulfill our human expectation for information. This course is intended for anyone who works with data and has to communicate it to others, whether a researcher, a data analyst, a consultant, a marketer, or a journalist. Bill shows you how to think about, and craft, stories from data by examining many compelling stories in detail.
- Creating a narrative structure for data
- Applying narrative to data
- Identifying what you want to say with the data
- Analyzing what your data is saying
- Determining what your audience needs to hear
- Leveraging tables, charts, and visuals
- Ensuring your narrative provides context and direction