Seven types of stories – Part I

This is one segment in a series of posts about storytelling. These posts will focus on the use of storytelling as an effective means of communication, education, and marketing. Storytelling is a wonderful way to share complex ideas in a memorable manner. This post discusses three of the seven classical types of stories and examines scientific examples.

You’ve decided that you want to make a video to share your scientific story. That’s great news. Your research will be even more memorable because the viewers will use multiple senses while watching your narrative. But are you wondering where to start? Well, what kind of story do you want to tell? According to Christopher Booker, the author of Seven Basic Plots, there are several broad categories that all stories fall into, even scientific ones. These narrative archetypes are: the quest, destroy the monster, rebirth, rags to riches, journey and return, tragedy, and comedy.

All scientists are on a quest for knowledge, so the only type of story you need to focus on is that archetype, right? Let’s reconsider this idea. While it’s true that scientists aren’t battling monsters in the lab (unless you count the giant cockroaches that seem to live in every university science department), what if the “monster” in your story is a type of disease and you’re going to “destroy” it by developing the cure? Thus, your scientific story could fit this type of narrative and depict how you battled and defeated the monstrous disease at your lab bench.

Rebirth is another great type of scientific story. How many times has the interest in a certain research topic tapered off only to be revitalized once a new problem or technology was developed? For example, Nobel Prize winner Elie Metchnikoff proposed in 1907 that some microbes are beneficial and could extend the life of humans. Over a hundred years later, data collected from the Human Microbiome Project supports the idea that our commensal microbiota is an important part of us and contributes significantly to our health. Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, are actively being researched as a novel method to treat diseases such as obesity and inflammatory bowel disease.

By using these types of narratives, it becomes easier to share data while telling a story. Communicating while using a narrative is a great way to educate your audience, because people naturally learn and remember stories. Sharing your data in the context of a narrative also allows the audience to understand the problem and to appreciate the significance of the solution. Motionbirth specializes in creating stunning video stories that allow researchers to share their data in an entertaining and striking way. The artists and animators at Motionbirth love helping scientists to craft stories so that their research can be shared with the world.

In this post, we’ve discussed three types of stories and given examples from a scientific perspective. In the next segment, we’ll examine the four other types of stories and how scientists can use these narrative archetypes.

2016-03-22T13:36:05+00:00 September 5th, 2015|Scientific Storytelling|