Monday, August 6, 2018

The Philosophical Basis of How Stories Connect with Audiences

"It sort of makes you stop and think, doesn't it?"
Rule No. 1: Audiences connect best with characters when you tell a story that the audience believes is universal, logical, and organic. 
  • Universal means the story centers on a universal values that the audience believes are universally true...that means what is right vs. what is wrong.  In 90 minutes you can't change the audience's moral values more than a smidgen, so you better start and end where the audience generally is. You can nudge people, but you can't convert them. If you want to convert people produce a documentary and present the most biased interviews and visuals you can find. But don't figure you can figure which way the conversion will flop. A pro-Trump doc may just turn people against him, as Dinesh D'Souza has probably discovered, and a anti-Trump doc may create more Republican Michael Moore has discovered. 
  • Logical means the story's cause and effect elements are logically consistent with Natural Law. Now, there are two kinds of natural laws. There is physical kind, e.g. gravity, momentum, inertia, etc.; and there are psychological kind, e.g. guilt, generosity, lust, envy, etc.   You violate one and there will be natural consequences to answer to. 
  • Organic means the filmmaker's ability to surreptitiously foreshadow events... while still being universal and logical.  
Rule No. 2: Every one of the universal, logical and organic elements consistently conforms to a single Moral Premise Statement:
[some moral vice] leads to [some physical detriment], but

[some moral virtue] leads to [some physical betterment].
To expand: The vice and the virtue in the statement need to be universal values that most everyone in a general audience will understand at some level, e.g. greed vs. generosity, selfishness vs selflessness, arrogance vs. humility, etc.

The detriments and betterments are logically the natural consequences of the vice or virtue. Greed leads to isolation, generosity leads to friendship. In the political arena, arrogance (both Trump and the Acosta) leads to distrust, but humility (Jordan Peterson) leads to respect. 

This is one of my Big Problems — s.w.
Rule No. 3: Avoid parochial content and jargon...unless your audience is parochial and expects you to use jargon. For instance, Christian faith films often lapse into trite visuals, scenes, and jargon, the meaning of which is obscured to the non-believer. Someone asked Jordan Peterson once, "Are you a believer?" Peterson's logical response was, "I believe a lot of things." 

Rule No. 4: Tell the Truth.

Seems simple, but here's what it means.

When you set up a conflict between a flawed character and a universal vice and universal virtue, remember these three things:

  1. Things Don't Happen by Accident. Either nature delivers, or your character is motivated by some value. 
  2. The Universe is run by the Eternal Purposes of God. Generally, that means Natural Law is benevolent toward humans, unless humans ignore what is benevolently given them.
  3. Novel and unexpected events (e.g. a miracle) occur to accomplish the universe's larger purpose. In such an event, it may appear that Natural Law is violated, but to the clever writer the event is always natural. 

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