Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Story v. Essay

It's becoming conventional wisdom that stories are a superior form of communication for complex information, such as strategies, value of technology products, business knowledge, brand attributes, etc. (Don't believe me? Read these: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.)

Here's a simple way to distinguish a story from another form of communication, the essay (which works well in other situations):

Story Essay
engages the senses engages the mind
concrete, detailed abstract/conceptual
specific general
contains moment-to- moment action. (“Thomas flicked his finger, causing his pen to twirl around his thumbnail until he caught it again.”) summarized (“Students are often bored in school.”)
suspenseful, surprising linear
uses action verbs “is”

Wait, you're saying. Don't some stories have the same characteristics as the essays you're referring to?

Yes. But they're rarely good stories.

(Picture by kaliyoda via stock.xchng)

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