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Story, Contrast & The Art of Continuum

Posted on Dec 2, 2012 by in ThiNK First | 1 comment

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Got a communication challenge? Stuck trying to tell a story? Struggling to explain an idea?

Let me introduce you to two of my best friends contrast and continuums.

When I need to find the story, these are my tools. Opposites are never black and white. There’s always shades of grey – murky waters. There’s always a struggle between good and evil.

I go and curate. I immerse myself. I seek out continuums. I seek out friction and opposition. I seek out diversity. I seek out emotion and relevance.

I ask myself

  • Where am I now?
  • Where do I want to be?
  • Where is the customer now?
  • Where do they want to be?

I try and imagine you are me. And I am you. Who are you? What will you feel? Which contrast and continuums will you care about? How can I connect with you? Which path do I take to get you to care and contextualize my arguments so they become yours. You’ll listen to your thoughts and not to mine.

Accepting that reality is progress. It all comes down to perception. An ounce of perception goes a long way.

How can I creatively/curatively express polar opposites? How can I create drama, intrigue and story?

How do I create belief. Storytelling only works if you start and your story is believable. Storytelling isn’t selling.

How do I create the good guy? Who is the hero? Where is the villain? Where is the truth?

I’m seeking opposition, an opponent. I’m looking for the place to differentiate from.  An immovable object. An entrenched incumbent.

Who is the legacy system? Who’s lunch are we eating? I just need a simple believable and desirable story.

Continuums paint pictures. People naturally place themselves on a continuum. We’re quick at that. I sit just about here. You go there. We self-size and self-sort.  Humans are constantly sizing themselves up. Who’s bigger, faster, taller, prettier, richer, more famous.

It’s the truth. We’re highly skilled in the art of comparison. And we totally get continuums. We get progression. We sort and rank our options.

Continuums are scaling. Continuums are preference graphs. There’s an implied “good” and “bad” end to every continuum. Continuums are curation. Harry Potter vs Voldomort. It’s a perfect continuum. Well perhaps not perfect as Harry is, after all, part Voldomort.

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Why is it movies complexify the simple?

OK, lets say Snow White and the wicked Queen. That’s a nice, simple story of good vs evil.

We all love a good story. And stories need heroes and evil empires and cunning plans. Stories need hope.

So let’s take Listly and explore some of the possible contrasts and continuums.

For example Creation vs Curation. It’s not a simple choice. It’s a continuum. There are shades of gray. Degrees of curation.

And here’s a few more examples. This could be taxing. Skim ahead if curation isn’t your thing. There’s something funny about telling people to skim, when you know they already have.

  • Disorganized vs Organized /  Chaos vs Order
  • Losing things vs Finding things
  • Likes vs Dislikes /  Like vs Loving
  • Thoughts vs Feelings
  • Order vs Unordered / Ranked vs Sorted
  • Text vs Images / Reading vs Looking
  • Single Layout vs Multiple / Fixed vs Flexible.
  • Lost in Content vs Standalone platform
  • Copied vs Reused / Copied vs Credited
  • Hand Crafted vs Content Farm
  • Human / Manual vs Algorithmic / Automatic.
  • Impersonal vs Community
  • Concluded vs UnConcluded / Complete vs Incomplete
  • Fixed vs Evolving
  • Old Media vs No Media / New Media.
  • Selfish vs Generous  / Collecting vs Hoarding
  • Sharing vs Nurturing
  • Curations vs Search / Find vs Be Found
  • Search vs Sift vs Assemble
  • Search vs Collect / Collection vs Curation
  • Conversation vs Curation
  • Individuals vs Tribes vs Community
  • Social Curation / Collaborating  vs Solo Curation / Survival Sharing
  • Social Media vs Solo Media

Don’t filter. Don’t judge. You want ideas, not validation.  Sometimes I can’t think of an opposing end to the continuum. Sometimes its just work in progress. Often it’s best to let these ideas rest. Share them in a blog post. You never know where feedback is going to come from, so don’t fight it. Let it in.

Play word games with people. See what they say. Start at both ends of the continuum.  Try replacing the world at each end. How does that sit.

Perhaps I might evolve my listly thinking to include

  • Shareable vs Transportable vs Nomadic vs Embeddable vs Reusable vs Bloggable vs Living Content
  • As a consequence of constantly changing content, Listly lists are timeless, another word could be “evergreen”.
  • Timeless vs aging, decaying, diminsihing, devaluing
  • Evergreen vs one-time, one-off
  • Compare the control of old media vs the people’s voice (and the sourcing of input from the community)
  • I can compare the notion that people can rip content (evil) vs the fact that list can easily be reembedded and credited (good)

Every new thought can set you off in a new direction, a new journey, a new discovery – new perspective.

So by seeking out words to describe the status quo, you can seek out opposites. You can find a way to express tomorrow’s reality.

Don’t forget the customer in the process. The words need to matter to them, not necessarily today, but tomorrow they need to really care.

You get the idea, bad guy (status quo) vs good guy (the future, the new way, the emerging force)

It’s not a problem that’s unique to Listly by any means. Contrast and continuums exist in every new markets.

  • CDs vs Cassettes vs Albums
  • Tracks vs Albums
  • SQL vs NoSQL
  • SQL vs OLAP
  • Proprietary vs OpenSource
  • Apps Store vs …
  • Apple/IOS vs Android
  • VHS vs BetaMax
  • Gas vs Diesel vs Electric
  • DVD Rental vs Online Rental
  • Own vs Rent

You can extend this list with your own examples. Create contrast, intrigue and friction. Create story. Create expectation and frustration.

If you an aspiring story teller, I think you’ll appreciate this list.

Top Storytelling Books via @YouBrandInc

Top Storytelling Books via @YouBrandInc

The art of telling a story is a skill that if learned can be used not only in business but throughout your life. The books featured here are some of the top books on how to tell a story. Note: this list is a mix between business storytelling, novel writing, and screenwriting. This mix is what I've found is the best way to build the skill and art of storytelling.

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  1. 1
    4 Voting...
    The Elements of Persuasion: Use Storytelling to Pitch Better, Sell Faster & Win More Business

    The Elements of Persuasion: Use Storytelling to Pitch Better, Sell Faster & Win More Business

    According to master storytellers Richard Maxwell and Robert Dickman, storytelling is a lot like running. Everyone knows how to do it, but few of us ever break the four-minute mile. What separates the great runners from the rest? The greats know not only how to hit every stride, but how every muscle fits together in that stride so that no effort is wasted and their goals are achieved. World-class runners know how to run from the inside out. World-class leaders know how to tell a story from the inside o

  2. 2
    4 Voting...
    Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences

    Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences

    Presentations are meant to inform, inspire, and persuade audiences. So why then do so many audiences leave feeling like they've wasted their time? All too often, presentations don't resonate with the audience and move them to transformative action.

  3. 3
    3 Voting...
    Story Engineering: Larry Brooks

    Story Engineering: Larry Brooks

    The vast majority of writers begin the storytelling process with only a partial understanding where to begin. Some labor their entire lives without ever learning that successful stories are as dependent upon good engineering as they are artistry. But the truth is, unless you are master of the form, function and criteria of successful storytelling, sitting down and pounding out a first draft without planning is an ineffective way to begin. Story Engineering starts with the criteria and the architecture of storytelling, the engineering and design of a story--and uses it as the basis for narrative. The greatest potential of any story is found in the way six specific aspects of storytelling combine and empower each other on the page. When rendered artfully, they become a sum in excess of their parts.

  4. 4
    3 Voting...
    How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling: James N. Frey

    How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling: James N. Frey

    How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling [James N. Frey] on Amazon.com. FREE super saver shipping on qualifying offers. Written in a clear, crisp, accessible style, this book is perfect for beginners as well as professional writers who need a crash course in the down-to-earth basics of storytelling. Talent and inspiration can't be taught

  5. 5
    3 Voting...
    The Back of the Napkin (Expanded Edition): Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures: Dan Roam

    The Back of the Napkin (Expanded Edition): Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures: Dan Roam

    "There is no more powerful way to prove that we know something well than to draw a simple picture of it. And there is no more powerful way to see hidden solutions than to pick up a pen and draw out the pieces of our problem." So writes Dan Roam in The Back of the Napkin, the international bestseller that proves that a simple drawing on a humble napkin can be more powerful than the slickest PowerPoint presentation. Drawing on twenty years of experience and the latest discoveries in vision science, Roam teaches readers how to clarify any problem or sell any idea using a simple set of tools.

  6. 6
    3 Voting...
    On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft: Stephen King

    On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft: Stephen King

    “Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

  7. 7
    2 Voting...
    Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact

    Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact

    Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact [Annette Simmons] on Amazon.com. FREE super saver shipping on qualifying offers. Story telling is a powerful communications tool that is becoming more and more recognized in the business community. These stories are not the usual speech openers or ice breakers

  8. 8
    2 Voting...
    Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting: Robert McKee

    Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting: Robert McKee

    In Story, McKee puts into book form what he has been teaching screenwriters for years in his seminar on story structure, which is considered by many to be a prerequisite to the film biz. (The long list of film and television projects that McKee's students have written, directed, or produced includes Air Force One, The Deer Hunter, E.R., A Fish Called Wanda, Forrest Gump, NYPD Blue, and Sleepless in Seattle.)

  9. 9
    1 Voting...
    Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time: Jordan Rosenfeld

    Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time: Jordan Rosenfeld

    Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time [Jordan Rosenfeld] on Amazon.com. FREE super saver shipping on qualifying offers. Write Scenes that Move Your Story Forward In Make a Scene, author Jordan E. Rosenfeld takes you through the fundamentals of strong scene construction and explains how other essential fiction-writing techniques

  10. 10
    1 Voting...
    The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors and Readers, and Set Your Novel Up For Success

    The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors and Readers, and Set Your Novel Up For Success

    The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors and Readers, and Set Your Novel Up For Success [Jeff Gerke] on Amazon.com. FREE super saver shipping on qualifying offers. Seeking writing success? Start at the beginning... Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader

  11. 11
    1 Voting...
    Story Structure Architect: A Writer's Guide to Building Dramatic Situations and Compelling Characters

    Story Structure Architect: A Writer's Guide to Building Dramatic Situations and Compelling Characters

    Story Structure Architect: A Writer's Guide to Building Dramatic Situations and Compelling Characters [Victoria Lynn Schmidt] on Amazon.com. FREE super saver shipping on qualifying offers. Build a Timeless, Original Story Using Hundreds of Classic Story Motifs! It's been said that there are no new ideas; but there are proven ideas that have worked again and again for all writers for hundreds of years. Story Structure Architect is your comprehensive reference to the classic recurring story structures used by every great author throughout the ages. You'll find master models for characters

  12. 12
    1 Voting...
    How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II: Advanced Techniques For Dramatic Storytelling: James N. Frey

    How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II: Advanced Techniques For Dramatic Storytelling: James N. Frey

    How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II: Advanced Techniques For Dramatic Storytelling [James N. Frey] on Amazon.com. FREE super saver shipping on qualifying offers. Damn good fiction is dramatic fiction, Frey insists, whether it is by Hemingway or Grisham, Le Carre or Ludlum

  13. 13
    1 Voting...
    Characters & Viewpoint - Orson Scott Card

    Characters & Viewpoint - Orson Scott Card

    Elements of Fiction Writing - Characters & Viewpoint: Proven advice and timeless techniques for creating compelling characters by an award-winning author [Orson Scott Card] on Amazon.com. FREE super saver shipping on qualifying offers. Vivid and memorable characters aren't born: they have to be made This book is a set of tools: literary crowbars

  14. 14
    1 Voting...
    The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller: John Truby

    The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller: John Truby

    The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller: John Truby: Amazon.com: Kindle Store

  15. 15
    1 Voting...
    Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire: Paul Smith @LeadWithAS

    Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire: Paul Smith @LeadWithAS

    Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire [Paul Smith] on Amazon.com. FREE super saver shipping on qualifying offers. Storytelling has come of age in the business world. Today, many of the most successful companies use storytelling as a leadership tool. At Nike

  16. 16
    1 Voting...
    Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story, Updated and Expanded Edition: Jerry Weissman

    Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story, Updated and Expanded Edition: Jerry Weissman

    Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story, Updated and Expanded Edition [Jerry Weissman] on Amazon.com. FREE super saver shipping on qualifying offers. Thirty million presentations will be given today. Millions will fail. Millions more will be received with yawns. A rare few will establish the most profound connection

  17. 17
    1 Voting...
    Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence

    Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence

    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.

  18. 18
    1 Voting...
    The Busy Writer's One Hour Plot: Marg McAlister

    The Busy Writer's One Hour Plot: Marg McAlister

    The Busy Writer's One Hour Plot: Marg McAlister: Amazon.com: Kindle Store

  19. 19
    1 Voting...
    Metaphors We Live By: George Lakoff, Mark Johnson

    Metaphors We Live By: George Lakoff, Mark Johnson

    The now-classic Metaphors We Live By changed our understanding of metaphor and its role in language and the mind. Metaphor, the authors explain, is a fundamental mechanism of mind, one that allows us to use what we know about our physical and social experience to provide understanding of countless other subjects. Because such metaphors structure our most basic understandings of our experience, they are "metaphors we live by"—metaphors that can shape our perceptions and actions without our ever noticing them.

  20. 20
    1 Voting...
    Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art: Scott McCloud

    Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art: Scott McCloud

    A comic book about comic books. McCloud, in an incredibly accessible style, explains the details of how comics work: how they're composed, read and understood. More than just a book about comics, this gets to the heart of how we deal with visual languages in general. "The potential of comics is limitless and exciting!" writes McCloud.

  21. 21
    1 Voting...
    How to Tell a Story and Other Essays

    How to Tell a Story and Other Essays

    Mark Twain (1835 -1910) was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called "the Great American Novel", and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.

  22. 22
    1 Voting...
    Improving Your Storytelling: Beyond the Basics

    Improving Your Storytelling: Beyond the Basics

    Aspiring storytellers will be pleased to know that Lipman's down-to-earth approach allows for flexibility rather than an emphasis on memorization. A professional storyteller who has appeared at such prominent venues as the National Storytelling Festival, he presents a thoughtful framework that can apply to anyone whose livelihood depends on keeping an audience rapt, including lawyers, teachers and salespeople, although his remarks are more specifically tailored to performing artists.

  23. 23
    1 Voting...
    StoryBranding

    StoryBranding

    Marketing should not feel like marketing. It should feel like a story. StoryBranding2.0 written by 30-year advertising executive, Jim Signorelli. This is the newest edition of StoryBranding: Creating Standout Brands Through The Purpose of Story. Learn how to draw on the principles of story to create a more magnetic brand and a purposeful organization. By applying the elements of story like plot, theme, characters, conflict etc, you'll gain insights about how your brand can do more to attract loyal followers and raving fans instead of just buyers.

  24. 24
    0 Voting...
    The Art And Craft Of Storytelling: A Comprehensive Guide To Classic Writing Techniques

    The Art And Craft Of Storytelling: A Comprehensive Guide To Classic Writing Techniques

    The Art And Craft Of Storytelling: A Comprehensive Guide To Classic Writing Techniques [Nancy Lamb] on Amazon.com. FREE super saver shipping on qualifying offers. Master the Power of Story When you consider the thousands of years of storytelling that comprise our literary tradition

  25. 25
    0 Voting...
    Writing the Breakout Novel: Donald Maass

    Writing the Breakout Novel: Donald Maass

    Writing the Breakout Novel [Donald Maass] on Amazon.com. FREE super saver shipping on qualifying offers. Take your fiction to the next level! Maybe you're a first-time novelist looking for practical guidance. Maybe you've already been published

View more lists from Scott Scanlon

Once I have built my list of continuums I begin to think about metaphors. Metaphors put continuums into context.

That’s enough for now. Continuums and contrast was more than enough of a topic for one post.

Image Credit: jdhancock

Nick Kellet (148 Posts)

Nick is co-founder the social curation platform Listly, that combines crowdsourcing, content curation and embedable lists to drive high-level community engagement, live inside your blog posts. Connect with Nick on Twitter · Linkedin, Facebook and G+ and follow his writing via his other guest posts and on his blogs at NickKellet.com and blog.list.ly


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