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Principle #3 – The Power of Storytelling

Who’s the scariest antagonist you know? Probably your own fear.

Hi, I’m Diana, and this is Story Artist.

Story is conflict. Without conflict, there is no story.

And what is conflict? Essentially, it’s two opposing forces, fighting each other. One is your protagonist and the other one your opponent, your antagonists.

So to make your story powerful, you have to have a powerful antagonist. And this is what we will talk about in principle number three.

In his book, Anatomy of Story, John Truby says: “Create an opponent who is exceptionally good at attacking your hero’s greatest weakness.” So let’s look at the joker. The joker is an amazing antagonist, but only for Batman, which means he would be a bad antagonist for, let’s say, Luke Skywalker.

The thing is: You have to create a powerful antagonist, but the antagonist has to be perfectly matched to your hero. The more powerful the antagonist and the more perfectly he’s matched and capable of attacking the hero’s greatest weakness, the more powerful your story.

So how do you create the perfect antagonist?

#1 Find the greatest weakness.

Batman’s greatest weakness is that he has to have everything structured. He has principles, like the principle of never killing anyone, and his world is structured. He thinks that by physical power alone, he can overpower people. This is where his strength lies. And the joker is someone who tells him: no, you can’t fight me this way because the Joker has no motive. Batman thinks every villain has a motive, but Joker has none. He just wants to see the world burn. He’s not afraid of death. He’s not afraid of physical power.

That’s why Batman cannot overpower him. And that’s why the Joker attacks his greatest weakness.

So find the greatest weakness in your hero in order to create the perfect villain.

If in nonfiction, in marketing, it’s your story you’re telling, then find your greatest weakness or find the reader’s or your target audience’s greatest weakness. It might be time, might be doubt. It might be some fear.

Find the greatest weakness.

That weakness you will be tackling with your product or with your book or whatever you’re trying to sell.

#2 Identify the villain.

So now that you know the greatest weakness, you have to find the villain that can attack this greatest weakness the best. Who will be the ideal villain to attack this weakness? What would his characteristics be like? How would he be best at spotting those weaknesses and attacking him?

And if we’re talking marketing and nonfiction here, think about what increases the greatest weaknesses of your reader, for example, if they have a lack of time, ask yourself, why do they have a lack of time? What is stealing their time? What are the things that make it worse and worse and worse?

Because what you want to do for the antagonist, you want to make it worse and worse and worse. The same if you’re telling a story in nonfiction, you talk about a weakness and then you have to make it worse. You have to find something that drives it, even to a point where you think, okay, this is so bad, I have to find a solution. You have to increase this pressure.

Maybe they have tried and failed something. Why have they failed? Maybe they have a preconception in their minds that they need to get rid of.

So identify the villain first and now we get to number three.

#3 Intensify the conflict.

In fiction, you have to make things worse and worse and worse. Really, really bad for your hero. So the more intense the conflict, the stronger your story.

Make the antagonist someone who can not be underestimated and who makes these things really, really bad for your hero, so that the reader thinks in the end: How the heck is he going to get out of here?

And, it might be counterintuitive, but the same goes for nonfiction and marketing. So when you have identified the weakness and the things that are actually attacking this weakness and making even worse, you have to get the conflict to the absolute maximum, telling your reader, okay, this is how it’s going to be. This is bad, this is bad.

Why? Because to release the tension, you have to get it to the absolute maximum first.  You have to have your reader at a point where he’s asking: okay, how am I going to get out of here?

Because guess what? Then you have a solution ready for them, how they’re going to get out of here. But first, you have to show them this opposing force that is coming to get them. You have to tackle those fears, so you have to tackle those weaknesses before you can release this tension.

Never forget story is conflict. If you want to have a great story, you have to have great conflict.

And if you want to be a great storyteller, marketer, coach or whatever, you have to embrace conflict. You have to understand that conflict is the essence of story and to embrace it fully and for that, you need to create a great opposing force to have this conflict ready in place when you write the story.

I hope this was helpful, and I see you next time.

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