Kurt Vonnegut's Shape of Stories

As the OpenCulture blog explains, Kurt Vonnegut once proposed a master's thesis at the University of Chicago about the shape of stories. The idea was rejected because it "was so simple and looked like too much fun." That sounds familiar. People have asked us before if our style of video production is appropriate for serious subjects. 

Open Culture writes:

The elegant simplicity and playfulness of Vonnegut’s idea is exactly its enduring appeal. The idea is so simple, in fact, that Vonnegut sums the whole thing up in one elegant sentence: “The fundamental idea is that stories have shapes which can be drawn on graph paper, and that the shape of a given society’s stories is at least as interesting as the shape of its pots or spearheads.” 

What a neat idea. Here's how Vonnegut himself explains the shape of stories: 

Graphic designer Maya Eilam made this idea into an awesome infographic:

Kurt Vonnegut - The Shapes of Stories

The next time you see an opportunity to explain an idea in the form of a story, think about this simple idea: stories have shapes that we can visualize. Where does your story begin and end? Where does it go in-between?

NOTE: If you're interested in learning in-depth about the skill of explanation and how to make Common Craft Style videos, check out our online courses at the Explainer Academy.