Monday, April 1, 2013

Hook elearners by shattering their expectation

Our belief: At Vignettes Learning we use stories in eLearning; however, we make them interactive. The emphasis is getting learners involved in the story and not just telling the learners the story.
Synopsis. Lisa Cron gives enlightening insights on story and narrative development during a podcast interview. Interactive elearning developers can definitely benefit by listening to the conversation between the interviewer and Cron. She could refresh the eLearning developers’ knowledge of the essentials of effective story development.
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Lisa Cron is the author of Wired for Story, published by Crown Publishing in 2012. Amazon gives this glowing review for Cron’s book:
"Imagine knowing what the brain craves from every tale it encounters, what fuels the success of any great story, and what keeps readers transfixed. Wired for Story reveals these cognitive secrets--and it's a game-changer for anyone who has ever set pen to paper.

The vast majority of writing advice focuses on "writing well" as if it were the same as telling a great story. This is exactly where many aspiring writers fail--they strive for beautiful metaphors, authentic dialogue, and interesting characters, losing sight of the one thing that every engaging story must do: ignite the brain's hardwired desire to learn what happens next. When writers tap into the evolutionary purpose of story and electrify our curiosity, it triggers a delicious dopamine rush that tells us to pay attention. Without it, even the most perfect prose won't hold anyone's interest.

Backed by recent breakthroughs in neuroscience as well as examples from novels, screenplays, and short stories, Wired for Story offers a revolutionary look at story as the brain experiences it. Each chapter zeroes in on an aspect of the brain, its corresponding revelation about story, and the way to apply it to your storytelling right now."
Based on her podcast interview, I believe the author is larger than her book. Her passion for narrative and story development oozed out from the interview and I sense that Cron’s output  would remain  as a good knowledge resource  for the elearning industry.

During the interview, Cron discussed these topics: real purpose of stories, dopamine and curiosity, most important element of a story, protagonist’s inner world, how to grab attention from the start, pros and cons of story structure, first person or third person,

and common mistakes in storytelling.

Here are the outstanding points I got from the podcast:

  • The story is the language of the brain.  Our brains are high-wired to look for stories. It is stories that keep us intently attentive. The story is the survival mechanism of humankind;
  • The purpose of the story is not just for entertainment.  There must be a deeper purpose in a story than just entertainment.  Stories are crucial to our evolution. They allow us to envision the future and help us plan for the things that scare us most.  A story simulates our experiences;
  • A story is  crucial to survival.  It increases our wisdom.  The story doesn’t make us escape reality. Rather,it helps us navigate through it;
  • You have to make the reader or listener want to know what will happen next: stimulate the dopamine rush.  Stories put us in other people’s shoes. It pulls us in;
  • The protagonist plays an important role in the story. The main character is our way into the story – the avatar or our surrogate. It is the protagonist who opens our emotional connection to the story. If you don’t have a protagonist, you don’t have a story;
  • The best way to grab the learner’s attention is to surprise – break a pattern!  By not  meeting the expectation of the learners, they are hooked and try to anticipate what happens next;
  • Show how the plot affects the protagonist  - who is in pursuit of a goal.  This affects the learners;
  • The story allows us to transform the objective to subjective so we experience how it affects us. Why is it relevant to me and my life?
  • The  pitfall of trainers is that they simply give us pieces of information. For instance, cold data and statistics on climate change does not move us. But telling a story on how it is currently affecting our world and the threat it could give to our loved ones make it very powerful.

Read my related blog:
Creating Learning Peaks with Scenarios

Lisa Cron, podcast interview

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