Shapes of Stories
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Stories are told in every domain of social life. The human inclination to communicate via stories is central to human existence. If we look at the variety of content we consume every day ­– music, film, TV series, prose, news, etc – each of it tells a story. Stories are everywhere. We detect story patterns in all the things that we see and hear and this impulse is so powerful that we find pattern even in things that have no pattern about them. Seeing butterflies and human anatomy in Rorschach (inkblot) tests is also one such example. Remember your school literature classes where you were taught to read between the lines of a poem or a story? We would come up with numerous interpretations of a single line, sometimes even with things the author would have never meant! 

Stories are powerful because they mimic our experience of life – how we think, plan and respond to different situations. They provide models for how we might make sense of our own lives. But how do stories achieve this purpose? Do they share certain storytelling elements or patterns? Northrop Frye puts it this way: “We hear or listen to a narrative, but when we grasp a writer’s total pattern we ‘see’ what he means.” Why are some narratives, or other types of discourse, more successful? Could the pattern or archetype the writers select explain the variation in success in different domains? Can most popular stories be really grouped into these crude buckets? Delve into this insightful module and find answers for yourself.

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