Urban Legends are a form of modern folklore that consists of stories that may or may not have been believed to be true by the storytellers. While the accuracy of these stories are not touched upon, it usually circulates and exhibits variation over time. They tend to carry significance within a community which leads the legend to be preserved.
Urban legends are sometimes repeated in a later time and in more recent stories. They are also distributed by e-mail or in other terms, chain letters. Most times the origin of an urban legend cannot be traced to a source and the tellers of these stories claim it has happened to a friend, or a friend of a friend.
Examples of Urban Legends:
Urban legends can also be known as urban myths, urban tales, or contemporary legends. Most sociologists and folklorists prefer the term contemporary legend due to the misconception that they originate in urban areas.
Fables are succinct fictional stories that are written in prose or verse. They feature animals, mythical creatures, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature that are given human qualities such as verbal communication. They illustrate or lead up to a moral lesson that is sometimes expressed more outwardly than just reading between the lines.
Examples of Fables:
- The Tortoise and the Hare
- The Lion and the Mouse
- The Boy Who Cried Wolf
- The Princess and the Tin Box
- The Emperor’s New Clothes
- Animal Farm
A person who writes fables is called a fabulist.
A fable isn’t to be confused with a parable which writes out a lesson in life that is mostly written using humans instead of giving other subjects more human qualities.
by Kelsey Ruger at TheMoleskin
WRITEWORLD NOTE: This article was originally written for using narrative to tell business stories. We think it’s pretty broadly useful, though, so when you see the word business in the titles, just know that the methods and advice found in the article are helpful for everyone. Without further ado…
When you hear the names George Lucas or Stephen Spielberg, what comes to mind? Most people would answer ‘movie director’, but with movies like Star Wars, Raiders of The Lost Ark, The Color Purple and E.T under their belts these directors are also master storytellers. How did they become so good at telling stories? While both Spielberg and Lucas are fans of Joseph Campbell and comparative mythology you don’t have to become an expert in mythology before telling your story.
The biggest lesson we can take from these two directors is that stories shouldn’t be just a string of events mashed together. The result of properly using basic elements like plot, character, throughlines, setting and mythic structure is a story that the audience can connect with on a deep subconscious level.
Good stories don’t just happen. An audience really connects with your story when the plot, characters and other elements fade together to create a unified narrative. This idea of “unification” was first discuss in Aristotle’s Poetics. In it, Aristotle says that a good story is unified and focuses on an extended action with a beginning, middle and end.
Over the centuries Aristotle’s basic definition of story has evolved and now, some stories are character driven (the character moves the story forward because of their choices) while others are plot driven (the action moves the story forward and the characters react), however all good stories still have a hero (“your main character”) and some type of mission(“journey” or “challenge”) that the hero must complete. Why? Because it still works and audiences are still drawn to story structures they can connect with.
How many times have you watched a movie only to say to yourself, “What was the point of that?” That shouldn’t happen. Great stories don’t stall, sputter or leave the audience wondering what happened. The sequence of events should make sense and assist with the development and movement of the story. You keep stories moving with what Victoria Lynn Schmidt calls a dramatic through line. A through line helps answers “what’s the point?”. There are 5 basic throughlines that you can use.
Notice that I said that the through line helps answer the question. Your story still needs structure to make the journey toward answering that question seamless.
The structure you choose helps ties the pieces of your story together seamlessly. Whether you realize it or not, stories that succeed do so because they evolve according the audiences expectation of unity (beginning, middle and end). There are lots of story structures that you could use, but I recommend the ones that are commonly understood archetypes across all cultures and can be applied easily in a business setting (e.g. they present universally understood ideas).
You always want your audience to be emotionally engaged in any story you present. The best way to make sure that happens is by creating well rounded characters. The audience needs to be able to identify with the characters because it is through them that the audience relates to the story. Look at the following example:
When I graduated from college I thought I was on top of the world. I had been in the top 10% of my high school class, done well in college, and was one of only a few college students that had been hired by the consulting firm I was working for. I hadn’t experienced a lot of work failure at that point in my life, so I felt pretty good about how I was progressing.
In this segment from the story I used in the introduction, I was the character. My goal was to give enough detail about who I was at the time to allow the audience to identify with the ‘character’ in the story. Don’t spare the detail here. Use as much detail as needed to draw your audience in.
A story must have a location or setting to orient the audience. It sets the place, time and circumstances of the story, and helps the audience gain the context needed to understand where you are coming from. As with creating your characters, don’t spare the detail when defining the location.
Again, using stories takes practice. At the end of the day if you want them to work you have to think about what people really care about. Instead of asking “what do I want to present?” ask yourself “what can I do to help them relate to the message I have?” In every case focusing on our need for connection will be more successful.