Camilo Aguilera Column: How to Create an Engaging Story, Analysis by a Clinical Psychologist

Today I elaborated on this reflection and analysis, on what an attractive story is for me, both in books, series and movies.

I begin this analysis from the description and treatment of the stories, from these three factors that compose them: characters, plots and context. None of these three factors is the most important on its own. For a story to work well, these factors must have a synergy with each other.

The characters must have a coherent development with the context and the plot in which they are located. This development must be consistent for the viewer, who must understand how a character manages to think and feel as she does.

In addition, this development must be closely associated with the viewer’s own psychic challenges, like this one, dealing with these same emotions and dilemmas, although in less polarized situations (as he handles his anger, it will most likely not cause a city to be destroyed, like in the Naruto story). The stories tend to caricature a bit the characteristics of the characters, because they have to show in them what is useful for the story.

A good example is in the Joker movie, where the character development is so clear that the viewer can even empathize with the anger, destruction and disruption of the main character.

Regarding the plot, its objective must be in tune with the vital, psychological and even cultural challenges of the viewer. The plot is associated with the learning that the story wants to deliver, it should whet our appetite to understand what is happening, ignite the curiosity of how the outcome of this story will be, and that this is in tune with the values ​​that the viewer defends. .

If the plot shows how a family of lions “overcomes the wild”, we will be relieved to see how they overcome the challenges of finding safety, food and a quiet life (which is what we value). But if the plot wants to show the story of a family of Zebras, in the story it will cause us rejection that a lion eats them and the story ends like this. Unless the plot seeks to focus (for example) “how the baby Zebra overcomes the death of her parents”, or seeks to show “the meaninglessness of life” for a spectator group that defends ideas existentialists.
If the plot is very rigid, where the value that is intended to be proclaimed is very obvious, or is contrary to what the target audience is looking for, this can end up being perceived as something forced and predictable. Hence, boring. As it happens to us when we observe that they include a character from a minority, and we already predicted that the story will focus on how he overcomes adversity to be accepted. What the public usually calls “forced inclusion”.

And if the plot is very loose, it can leave a feeling of confusion, of not knowing where the story is going. As it happened to us with Batman vs Superman…. What was the purpose of the story told? Nobody knows.

Finally, on the subject of the context, this can be fanciful or realistic, but what really matters is that it is consistent with what the characters experience and the plot presented. That the context presents interesting challenges for the characters and that it be one more character in itself. How they occur in the first Matrix movie, where the context is post apocalyptic and the digital simulation of reality. It makes us curious how a normal person (Neo) reacts when he realizes that his whole life is a lie. Something similar happened to us with The Truman Show.

There are contexts so poor that they are only a facade for what happens to the characters, one more filler, as happened to us with Twilight, with a whole context of mythical stories between werewolves and vampires in the real world, however, little is I developed this and focused more on a fairly simple story of love dependency (which also had no character development).

In summary and in my opinion, it is these three factors well worked internally, as well as among themselves, that will determine if a story is attractive to the crowds. It should be noted that all these factors are subjective and are always linked to the viewer. In other words, the story cannot be separated from what happens to the viewer; therefore, it cannot be distanced from the values ​​that are present in our present. Stories must constantly evolve as societies do. This is why magic recipes run out and become obsolete after a few successes. Even what was applauded before is harshly criticized today for what the current hegemonic values ​​dictate.

Camilo Aguilera Column: How to Create an Engaging Story, Analysis by a Clinical Psychologist