I tried something new today – inspired by the non-stop talk of “storytelling” in the researchosphere I took a case study we’re turning into an awards submission, and re-wrote it using the Hero’s Journey as a framework.
Or rather, using a version of it I found on Google Image Search. I’ve never read Joseph Campbell, and frankly I’ve always been sceptical about the “Monomyth”, or the back-of-a-fag-packet version that’s filtered down to me through layers of pop psychology articles. But what the hell, I thought, it was worth a try.
I can’t share the results, unfortunately, because they’re an awards submission. Maybe it’ll win and I can later. I can make some general points though.
1. It was fairly easy, and quite fun, to squeeze the story – one about ad testing – into the Hero’s Journey framework. And once done it provided a ready made justification for shoving the details off into appendices.
2. The main problem was trying to work out if the agency or the client was the hero, which is probably dreadfully symbolic of the biz as a whole.
3. The story structure really helped focus things in some ways – establishing a problem, resolving it at the end – and the whole thing feels a lot better paced than most submissions or debriefs I’ve done. It was also MUCH faster to write - the ‘story’ created its own momentum.
4. It also meant I was doing stuff I wouldn’t normally do – leaving unresolved tension between sections, trying to introduce a possibility of failure, writing a teaser instead of a summary, and so on.
5. So I ended up with a 2,000 word case study which was actually a narrative unit, instead of one that’s scared of its own length, begging the reader to just look at the executive summary bullet points and move on. This may not be entirely a good thing! (I’m biased towards it though)
6. It also loosened up my style a bit – made me less reticent about getting enthusiastic or downward boastful. Having put my study through “trials” or “ordeals” or whatever, then, dammit, the heroic ending was going to be HEROIC.
So, yes, worth a try! I think the point is that putting any kind of story structure – monomyth or whatever you like - on a research case study or debrief is likely to improve it. It ought to pull things away from the language of the high school science write-up, where we seem to be trapped. I’ll definitely be trying some other techniques.