That’s why structure is so important to a story. “We vicariously inhabit the characters of that story, except if the structure sucks,” says Paul Zak, a neuroeconomist (they “study brain activity while people make decisions,” according to Zak). Structure helps listeners follow along and view themselves as part of a story. It’s why your palms sweat when James Bond is in trouble. (Yes, these brain rules apply in fiction too.)
A good story, says Catherine Burns, artistic director of The Moth, an New York City-based storytelling organization, doesn’t depend on structure alone. “The No. 1 thing that all great stories have is that moment of change. The second thing they have is vulnerability,” says Burns.
This all comes together when Peter Aguero talks storytelling. A professional storyteller with The Moth who also teaches storytelling there, Aguero tells stories that lock people in place (even when that place is in a car in the parking lot of a New Jersey mall when there’s a rush to get some errands done). When he’s right there with his story and his listeners, he says it’s “like a short film playing on the inside of your skull, and you have to explain it to the people who are listening because they can’t see it. But then, if you’re doing it right, they’re right there with you. They’re over your shoulder, looking at the same thing you’re looking at, these memories in your head. It’s not like emotions are being reflected back to you, but it’s like you’re all just experiencing the same thing at the same time.”
So it seems as though Narrative 4 should go ahead and cut up that pie in the sky — it’ll be a nice thing to eat as it’s cooking up a giant batch of understanding.