3 Ideas in 2 Minutes on Compelling Narratives
Narrative-Market-Fit, Shaggy Dog Story & a Story Worth Telling
What makes a media story trustworthy? According to writer and podcaster David Perell, Narrative-Market-Fit is one aspect to look out for. In business, a perfect Product-Market-Fit is something to strive for. However, Perell suggests, a strong Narrative-Market-Fit is not a good sign when it comes to media stories:
It happens when a story reflects the zeitgeist, and specifically, what media consumers are thirsty to hear.
Just as companies with Product-Market Fit are more likely to be funded, stories that reflect the zeitgeist and serve readers what they want to hear are more likely to be published. When a narrative is hot, writers are incentivized to focus on them at the expense of important but less popular stories — and sometimes, the truth. Instead of fitting the narrative to reality, they fit reality to the narrative.
The media runs on narratives because hot narratives usually sell better than truth.
So whenever you read something, ask yourself: “Does this story have Narrative-Market Fit?”
The more it has, the less you should probably trust it.
II. Shaggy Dog Story
A Shaggy Dog Story is a form of storytelling that will blow your mind — albeit in an unexpected way. Here’s the one that gave the genre its name:
A boy owned a dog that was uncommonly shaggy. Many people remarked upon its considerable shagginess. When the boy learned that there are contests for shaggy dogs, he entered his dog. The dog won first prize for shagginess in both the local and the regional competitions. The boy entered the dog in ever-larger contests, until finally he entered it in the world championship for shaggy dogs. When the judges had inspected all of the competing dogs, they remarked about the boy's dog: “He's not that shaggy.”
If you find this anecdote rather long-winded, irrelevant and pointless, you’ve recognised the essence of a Shaggy Dog Story. Paradoxically, in terms of their Narrative-Market-Fit, Shaggy Dog Stories seem to be on the more trustworthy side.
III. A Story Worth Telling
At this point, we might ask what kind of stories are even worth telling. Famed Polish-German literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki had a straightforward answer, at least when it comes to fiction:
Literature only knows two themes: love and death. The rest is nonsense.
Have a great week,