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TEDxTuesdays, a weekly-ish 'zine about TED-style messaging.

TEDxTuesdays: Insights from... The TED Talk Whisperer (09apr24)

Published about 1 month ago • 3 min read

UNVEILING THE 6 SHAPES OF STORY: Decoding Kurt Vonnegut’s Narrative Arcs.

From ancient myths to modern blockbusters, stories have the power to connect and compel with audiences.

But beneath the surface of every narrative lies a hidden structure — a design that gives shape to the audience’s emotional arc.

In the early 1980s, while in graduate school, Kurt Vonnegut proposed that the simple shapes of stories could be fed into computers.

At first, his professors scoffed; his master's thesis was rejected. But decades later, his theory was revived by mathematicians and computer scientists who began mapping narrative patterns.

In recent years, researchers at the University of Vermont and the University of Adelaide used sophisticated computing power and natural language processing (early AI-solutioning, c.2016) to analyze nearly 2,000 works of fiction.

Using sentiment analysis, they examined the emotional trajectory of each story and discovered overlap between plot points and emotional highs and lows. These findings indicated a strong correlation between narrative structure and emotional arc. Then they classified each into 6 core types of narratives based on the protagonist's journey.

1) MAN IN A HOLE
The Man in a Hole archetype traces the journey of a character who experiences a sudden reversal of fortune, only to claw their way back to redemption. (Shape: Fall then Rise)
2) RAGS TO RICHES
This classic archetype follows the journey of a character who starts from humble beginnings and achieves success against all odds. (Shape: Rise)
3) RICHES TO RAGS
In contrast to the Rags to Riches narrative, Riches to Rags stories explore the downfall of a once-prosperous protagonist. (Shape: Fall)
4) ICARUS
Named after the Greek myth of Icarus, this narrative arc follows a character whose ambition leads to their downfall. (Shape: Rise then Fall)
5) CINDERELLA
The Cinderella archetype is characterized by a rise, fall, and eventual rise to glory. (Shape: Rise then Fall then Rise)
6) OEDIPUS
Named after the tragic hero of Greek mythology, the Oedipus narrative arc follows a character whose rise to fortune is followed by a precipitous fall. (Shape: Fall then Rise then Fall)

In the end, the researchers affirmed Vonnegut's creative assertions (short video here; article here) and underscored the enduring appeal of certain narrative structures.

In fact, even today his “Man in a Hole” archetype dominates TED Talk stages in the form of the STICKY Stories™ framework.

From the ancient myths to the digital narratives of TED stages, these archetypal patterns remind us of the timeless potential of storytelling to connect and compel.

Credits: 6 shape designs: CraftYourContent.com; Vonnegut portrait: Yousuf Karsh (c) 1990.

DEVIN D. MARKS is known as The TED Talk Whisperer. His firm, CONNECT to COMPEL, has served 100s of TED, TEDx, and TED-Style speakers. The result: 100s of millions of views. His team helps leaders, just like you, catalyze ideas.

Let the world LIVE your message!™

You can reach Devin at 617.804.6020, or DM him here.


INTRODUCING: *Live* STICKY Stories Training!

Stories are memorable. But to spread they need something more.

They also need to be designed to be uber-shareable and -repeatable.

I call these “sticky” stories.

To help people spread their ideas I’ve developed the STICKY Stories™ training.

The approach is based on my years coaching the very best of TED Talk speakers in storytelling.

The 6-part STICKY acronym is the basis of my method. It is the very model that can help you spread your stories from stage or screen — like the best TEDsters.

Starting April 24th, I will be guiding a select cohort through this potent framework in a LIVE Zoom format. Click here to apply before next week and you'll realize a 55% discount ($1,100 savings).

Let’s work together to improve your everyday storytelling with the very best of TEDster tools!


Short TEDster Insights

Here's a quick video that unpacks TED best practices for memorization:

Memorize Better: What Are The Tips For Public Speaking?

video preview

Become a TED-Level Presenter!

When you're ready to take center stage (or center screen), let me know. Whether you're working on a TED Talk or a commencement address; an all-hands preso or a keynote, you will want to be:

[ ✔] 5Fold-Focused
[ ✔] Story-Wrapped
[ ✔] Action-Igniting

Those 3 priorities are what make the Marks Messaging Method so very, very connecting and compelling.

To begin a conversation, click here:


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TEDxTuesdays, a weekly-ish 'zine about TED-style messaging.

From... The TED Talk Whisperer, DEVIN

I help niche execs, experts and authors master the TED stage and "short talk" messaging style. (TEDx clients enjoying views in the many, Many, MANY millions.) LET THE WORLD LIVE YOUR MESSAGE!™ #tedtalks #tedx #tedstyle #publicspeaking #speechwriting #pitches #presentations #messaging #branding #publicrelations #events #conferences

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