There Are Only 6 Ways to Tell a Story. Are You Using the Best One at Work?

Use this universally proven approach to tell the most powerful stories at work.

CREDIT: Getty Images

CREDIT: Getty Images


New research has found that the basic building blocks of every movie, book, and story can be distilled down to 6 emotional arcs. As reported by MIT Technology Review, a team of researchers used advanced data mining techniques to evaluate the arcs of over 1,700 plots. Amazingly, they found that all stories are foundationally based on just 6 types of narratives, or arcs.

1. “Rags to riches” (involves a steady rise)

2. “Tragedy”, or “Riches to rags” (involves a steady fall)

3. “Man in a hole” (a fall followed by a rise)

4. “Icarus” (a rise followed by a fall)

5. “Cinderella” (a rise, then a fall, then a rise)

6. “Oedipus” (a fall, then a rise, then a fall)

With each of these you can think of various stories and movies where the plot follows this flow. Quickly think of your favorite book or movie and you will likely find that it follows one of these patterns (or even multiple patterns based on the various plots).

More importantly, the researchers then assessed which of these arcs was the most effective. The emotional experience plays a large part in determining popularity and they found that the most effective way to make this connection is through using an emotional arc that involves a recovery. Thus, they found that stories that at a minimum included a fall and a rise were the best.

Consider this fact the next time you are searching for the best way to tell a story. If you are using a story at work to gain support, create inspiration, or anything else, you will want to bring both of these elements into the narrative. A steady rise or fall is interesting, but it’s only when a bouncing back or rising up against odds is introduced that you can really connect with others.

There Are Only 6 Ways to Tell a Story. Are You Using the Best One at Work?

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