Constructing a 3D Storyboard – Contours of Stories

A Contour Map

By: Heero Yuy

In my previous post I presented the idea that Vonnegut’s Shapes of Stories needed an update. Video below will get you up to speed on the concept of Shapes of Stories.

I watched Casey Neistat’s videos because I found [VR 360] to be fascinating and that that particular space is the future of ALL popular video as more VR headsets get distributed to the general public.

This particular video from Casey is his guide to Film Making which I thought was fascinating:

What drives everything as Casey says is this:

storytelling-casey-neistat
Story is the center of Film Making, period.

So stories should flow and engage the audience!

In the attempt to rent out my house, and having no real bidders for the past few months, I’ve resolved to DIY. Last night, I went and purchased a Samsung Gear 360 from Best Buy after they price matched the linked Amazon.com price of $273.00! (Was going to get taxed either way so I went to Best Buy to pick it up instead of waiting)

A buddy of mine, Clay, was fascinated about the new dimensions that VR brings to the table in the history of cinematography. This is shooting color when everyone else shot black and white. This is shooting with sound when everyone else produced silent films. This is it! My challenge to Clay and others is to do a daily VRLog (Virtual Reality Video Blog) of 2-5mins to enhance storytelling and give the audience something cool to think about while being visually inspired. Most of my friends find [VR 360] to be comical at best and don’t really get it. When this becomes the standard, others will look back at on this post will think it was obvious where they are currently oblivious.

Why am I bringing up the Shapes of Stories and [VR 360] at the same time? Well… to tell a multidimensional story, one needs to utilize a multidimensional storytelling equipment such as the Samsung Gear 360! It only feels appropriate the give the audience that added layer of infinite degrees of freedom and option to rewind and re-watch the story to get infinite different angles and perspectives as the narrator moves through each scene. Watching a 2D movie would give you only one universal angle and infinite interpretations where as a [VR 360] film provides infinite angles and interpretations.

Before I start to manually analyze this idea of 3D Shapes of Stories, or Contours of Stories (sounds better), I need to formalize the system by which we talk about Contours of Stories.

There are Three Dimensions to any Story (which makes up our Axis for x-y-z planes):

  1. Time
  2. Fortune
  3. Practicality

We can assign ranges to describe each so that we know the beginning and end as well as the degree of Fortune (Misfortune) and Practicality (Theoretical).

  1. Time (A-Z; 26 Letters with A the beginning and Z the end)
  2. Fortune (0-10; 0 being total devastation and 10 being absolutely blessed and 5 being neutral)
  3. Practicality (1-5; 1 being Theoretical [Impractical] and 5 being Very Pragmatic [Practical] and 3 being neutral)

Some storytelling can jump back and forth chronologically so letters can be repeated. The sequence of referring to all three dimensions is

(Practicality:Time:Fortune)

i.e. (3A5) which stands for neutral practical, start of story, and neutral fortune.

The first number will always refer to Practicality and the last will always refer to Fortune. The last number of Fortune can have up to two digits and the first letter will only be single digit. Memory cue is you can always be MORE Fortunate than being simply being Practical (Fortune can have extra digit).

I will put this idea to practice as I execute my storyboard and advertise my home for rent. Let’s see how this project turns out! 🙂 Hopefully I can get some buy-in from Casey on these ideas and more so that my first ever [VR 360] project can be a success. Wish me luck!

rent-my-house-lumberton-tx
How to Rent out a Home – [VR 360] Vonnegut Contour of Stories Style!

3D Shapes of Stories – Spicing up a Classic Idea from Vonnegut

By: Heero Yuy

Kurt Vonnegut’s Shapes of Stories (Harvard Business Review) deals with the Axis of Time and Fortune. This is the audience or the reader’s perceived feeling as the story unfolds. In the story itself the actual character deals with internal and external conflicts where he or she has to apply theoretical or applied solutions in resolving each conflict to move onto the next milestone.

Imagine the following as the 3-Dimensional Shapes of Stories.

No automatic alt text available.

The Labels of the X, Y, and Z Axis:

  • X-Axis: Time
  • Y-Axis: Theoretical for Y>0, Applied for Y<0
  • Z-Axis: Fortune Z>0, Misfortune Z<0 (Perceived)

Most telling of stories deals with the mental aspect on how characters overcome obstacles using a combination of the Y-Axis to yield the items on the Z-Axis while the X-Axis constantly moves from 0 (beginning) to 100 (end). Datamining various stories (MIT Technology Review), lines plotted in 3D, based on the above axis would yield contours of stories not simply plots to give story telling of humans true shapes.

I am sure there are infinite Axis that can be added onto the general X-Axis of time such as:

  • Character’s emotional response to Z-Axis
  • Accumulation, or not, of knowledge or wisdom
  • Change, or not, of each character
  • Etc

Generally speaking, the audience is most in tune with the How and Why the character managed to shift or remain stagnant on the Z-Axis. Why makes the story interesting to read and the How is explained by the Y-Axis.

This is the 3-Dimensional update to Kurt Vonnegut’s 2-Dimensional Shapes of Stories.

Shapes of Stories – Applying Vonnegut’s Tool to an Ancient Story

By: Heero Yuy

shapes-of-stories

Once upon a time the Ketuvim (כְּתוּבִים‎‎) was written. In it contained three poetic books called Psalms, Proverbs, and Job. It also includes a collection of five scrolls (Megillot) that has the book of Ecclesiastes. The introduction to Ecclesiastes the author is introduced as “son of David, king in Jerusalem” or better known as Solomon.

This book is a very good candidate to analyze and discuss with Shape of Stories as used by Kurt Vonnegut. All of stories can be mapped on an axis such as the one below:

plot
All stories have a beginning and an end filled with a mixture of good and ill fortunes. Within each story there are sub stories that follows the same principle. This is how all stories are told since the beginning of time and some get creative by jumping around on the timeline to tell slices of the story in non-chronological order (i.e. Fight Club or better yet Pulp Fiction).

The story of Ecclesiastes is told from the perspective of a King who’s done it all and seen it all and can truly profess that “there is nothing new under the Sun.” Each pursuit begins with purpose, progresses to fruition, celebrated with delight upon triumph, and ends dismissive as a useless and meaningless journey. Each chapter is a mini story and each paragraph a sub-story that follows this story arc.

For instance, the story begins where everything is meaningless in a very bottom-line upfront approach in story telling. Next the author tells the audience that:

  • Wisdom
  • Pleasures
  • Wisdom and folly
  • Toil

There is an intermission where the element of time is introduced and different elements on the spectrum of human experience in opposing pairs such as:

  • Birth and death
  • Plant and uproot
  • Kill and heal
  • Tear down and build up
  • Weep and laugh
  • Mourn and dance
  • etc, etc
  • War and peace

Before resuming his negative stream of consciousness the author also gives a hint at the idea of infinity, eternity, and God. Along with these elements the author describes beauty, happiness, satisfaction, toil, and fear.

A continuous chorus of “everything is meaningless” is song constantly throughout the dialog to drive the point home to remind the reader of this “ill journey” on the shape of the story. The “ill journey” on this journey is eternal confusion and failing to comprehend eternity to be stuck in an infinite loop of questioning in a finite world without knowing how to migrate to the next level of infinity.

Before resuming to telling the next elements of meaninglessness the author runs through yet another mini-story explaining the meaninglessness of toil, dragging down the story towards “ill journey”, and then at the end offers a solution which is to journey in life with a battle buddy and never going it alone:

“Two are better than on, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”

Journey resumes and the list of meaningless continues with:

  • Advancement (Keeping up with the Jones’) [Part 1]
    • No way any normal man can keep up with a King, and no way a life can have meaning if a King cannot find meaning in it… Right?

Another intermission to remind man of eternity and “fulfill[ing] your vow to God.”

Meaningless list drags on with:

  • Riches [Part 2]
    • Can’t take money to the grave!
    • Your clout doesn’t matter worth a damn in a finite life vs. infinity

Now the entire meaning of life, major elements of it, and the toils and pleasures are all essentially worthless the author turns over a new leaf to then bring meaning back into all forsaken elements one by one. This is powerful for two reasons:

  1. He got your attention by riding the story up and down the line of good and ill fortune
  2. All your current perceptions and prejudices against all known things in life are now wiped clean
    1. You are now a clean canvas
    2. The teacher can start his lesson anew to build one up again

Each brick of the foundation is thus laid as follows (rising up from ill fortune to good fortune):

  • Wisdom
    • “A person’s wisdom brightens their face and changes its hard appearance”
      • Metaphoric for internal self image and perception
  • Obey the King
    • Basic law and order
  • A common destiny for all
    • We all die (Sorry!)
  • Wisdom is better than folly
    • “Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. So I said, ‘Wisdom is better than strength.’ But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.”
      • People chase paper credentials and social status more so than real life wisdom (Even back in the day!!!)
  • Invest in many Ventures
    • Talks about diversification to hedge against risk
    • Observe market conditions to know when to throw down and toil, when to restrain oneself
    • Concludes with step-by-step investment strategies and the mechanics of investing
  • Remember the Creator while young
    • A troubled heart and anxious mind confuses the young
    • Message is to ponder about the infinity and see how small your daily problems are in comparison

Author after mentoring the young closes his Sales pitch by saying the hard earned truth is the most concise guide to a no non-sense life without any addition or subtraction from the principles outlined. Studying too much and reading too far into other texts in search of the distilled wisdom is a pure waste of time.

Major arcs in the story consists of a beginning where it is “ill fortune” with mini-stories of ill and good fortune and the story progresses to “good fortune” until the conclusion where it remains neutral like the glass surface of a still lake on a calm day. Stories conclude like this for only one reason and that is to leave the choice up the reader to willfully live a different life or remain the same as before even after learning of this knowledge.

The lights fade, curtains drawn, stage empty, and either the audience applauds or walks out in silence.