xab

  • When I first started work, I was going to write a long-ass essay about all the things that are important and meaningful
  • The XAB system. This is very parallel to the jobs-to-be-done framework. Gregory Ciotti wrote about this recently. Every piece of content has a job to do.
  • I think about it in the same way. Every piece of content- or every component in any sort of system, actually, needs to take person X from point A to point B. If you do not clearly define those three things, you’re sunk.
  • I remember reading somewhere that if a protagonist doesn’t change in a movie, people feel uneasy. All stories are about change in some way. Stories survive and thrive because they’re some of the most efficient ways of communicating information <made to stick>. Stories need concrete examples. They need struggle. They describe confusion, pain, difficulty. All of those things are very interesting to us.
  • Too many things are written like Wikipedia pages, and not enough things are written like, say, Eric Shmidt’s How Google Works slideshare. In my ideal world, there would be a slideshare or a video or a blogpost that tells a story about every single thing in the Universe- why it’s important, why it’s relevant, what’s the story behind it. I’d like to go to the Wiki page for “electricity” and not just see the formulas and the history laid out in a chronological factual way, but I want to see the grit and blood and sweat and tears that went into it. Great science writers do this. Carl Zimmer does this in Soul Made Flesh.
  • How do we do that for our own things? Moz’s guide to SEO does it. Doug Kessler does it for B2B Marketing and for content marketing. He tells you the story. He tells you why things matter. Stories are about meaning and too many of us spend too much time living and working with the meaning abstracted away. Saying “This Means Something” is scary, because there’s a chance that people disagree with you. So what we do is we hide away the meaning. We sterilise, cauterize, clingwrap.
  • All of us are alive for this incredibly short period of time. We go to work partly to pay the bills, but we also ought to find some sort of meaning in it. We ought to feel some sort of pleasure and joy, that we’re helping people, or we’re helping people help people. I’ve been taking a lot of pleasure lately in seeing how LIFX customers make customer referrals to one another.
  • If you’re not surprising and delighting people on social media you’re wasting everybody’s time. If you’re not ditching the script, you’re wasting everybody’s time. If you’re not lighting a fire of some sort, you’re wasting everybody’s time. (I’m sorry if this seems like a lot of pressure. The truth is most people, myself include, waste most of our time. Leonardo Da Vinci reportedly claimed to have wasted his hours. So there’s no hope for any of us. The most we can do is try.)
  • If you don’t surprise somebody in some way, if you don’t tell them something unexpected, then you just gave them a rerun of sorts. And while reruns do serve some purpose, nobody really celebrates them. So we need some element of surprise. But how do we keep things surprising when everything has been done to death over and over again? The protagonist has to change his mind in some way.
  • When I first came to ReferralCandy I was anxious, nervous, ambitious, naive. I was surrounded by talented people who talked about really technical things that I struggled to grasp. Referral links and coupon codes and javascript and referral rates and billing and payments and all sorts of complicated moving parts. I knew that I was pretty good at writing so I wanted to do all the writing I could.
  • Appeal of the Protagonist http://scripteach.com/?page_id=667
  • http://www.writingclasses.com/FacultyBios/facultyArticleByInstructor.php/ArticleID/54
  • http://thewritepractice.com/protagonist/
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Character_arc
  • A protagonist must want something- she may then find that there’s something in the way of what she wants, and then she’ll have to do something. She might have to change her mind. There is some deliberation. There is some confusion. You have to tell the most important story of the protagonist right now. You can’t save it for a sequel. Outer goal- what the protagonist wants, inner goal- why they want it.
  • There has to be some sort of opportunity. Obstacles, brick walls, stuff that’s keeping people from doing what they want. Harold and Kumar just want to have a couple of greasy burgers.
  • What do they do about it? The point of a story is to get viewer or reader X from point A to point B. I most recently read the First Formic War trilogy (prequels to Ender’s Game)- and the objective I think was to get a reader who’s curious about how Earth ended up becoming so different- to understand and realise the toxic nature of conflict and the way our species handles it. Also how decision-making works.
  • Weakness- superman’s weakness isn’t kryptonite, that’s just a plot device- his real weakness is loneliness, the fact that he’s an alien on a planet that simultaneously fears and reveres him, never quite seeing him as one of that. Fiction is about helping us figure out how to live better in our own short, limited lives, no?

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