I’ve just finished reading Jack Hart’s “Storycraft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction”. Now, if you are going to write a book about writing, it’d better be good—and Hart doesn’t disappoint.
The book explains how compelling stories are comprised of structured elements. One thing that struck me is how closely these structures and elements are aligned with confrontation analysis.
Page 93 quotes literary agent Peter Rubie as saying that a good scene will:
- cause a subsequent scene to occur, creating cause and effect
- be driven by the main character’s needs and wants
- explore various ploys by the character to get his own way
- include action that changes a character’s position, relative to the end of the story
This general theme, of a protagonist who must overcome a series of challenges in pursuit of a goal, forms the “arc” of every great narrative.
This is exactly how we tackle problems using confrontation analysis.
Parties (protagonists) have positions (goals) that they attempt to advance by overcoming a series of dilemmas (challenges) through the exchange of (kinetic and non-kinetic) messages (action). Resolutions to one confrontation set the scene for the next as the parties struggle to achieve their goals.
Compelling narrative needs dilemmas.
It appears that confrontation analysis has potential as a design tool for creating compelling narrative. Strategic narratives, used to help us understand real-world issues and organizations, might be enhanced through a confrontation analysis treatment.
Without a formal process, there is a danger that a narrative will fail to draw out the essential elements. And, if the narrative is not compelling, those reading it will not be drawn in, making it difficult for them to extrapolate the story into the future—essential if the narrative is to influence what comes next.
Without a formal process underpinning the development of a narrative there is a danger that it’ll be a hard-nosed, “just the facts, ma’am”, news report—safely unbiased, but hardly absorbing. Strategic narrative, like all narrative nonfiction, needs to draw the reader in.
There is also much the confrontation analysis practitioner can learn from Storycraft—for example, when writing up an analysis in a way that brings it to life. Deft use of verbs and dialogue creates a sense of movement…action…that propels your narrative along. As columnist Jimmy Breslin said
News is a verb
The book also reminds us of the importance of developing character and scene—elements that are important when trying to understand a confrontation, but that are not formally addressed by the confrontation analysis process.
Read Storycraft. I promise you’ll learn something.