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Posts Tagged ‘monologue

Story Beats Monologue

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Why, again, do we elevate didactic talking points?

I hear “story” a lot these days.

Clients are looking for stories because stories show how something—their product, for instance—works in real life. A story is engaging. There is some tension in a story. There is a human factor in a story—we get to know some character. There is specificity that perks our attention. This is all story stuff.

We must work to help the story emerge

We must work to help the story emerge

Students like stories because they put a concept together into an easily digestible form.

In some ways it seems like nearly anything put in story form gets attention. Even over at Dumb Sketch Daily people comment that they are curious about stories behind the various dumb sketches appearing there. And if there is no story, the reader makes one up. It’s nearly an involuntary response. Our minds are made to put things together, to look for the connections and to make things fit. We find stories where none should exist: I’m remembering one daughter who named each bag of leaves in the back of the van and told stories about them—even as we drove the newly-named leaf bags to the compost heap.

In the race to get heard, story is a form we are all searching for. Story is irresistible. Sermons and monologues induce sleep. Story wakes. Story compels.

So why is it, again, that we elevate facts and principles and dry argument to such a high place? We think intellect beats emotion. But how much better if emotion and intellect are joined?


Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

September 28, 2015 at 9:03 am

Neville Brody: Making Space on a Page to Think

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In the advertising business, it’s not in the interest of advertisers for people to think about what they’re presented with. It’s in the interest of advertisers that people choose to think in the way the advertisers intend them to. It’s a formulaic thing, where there’s only one possible outcome in advertising. That creates a space where the “right to thought” is taken away from people.

I’ve always tried to approach my work as being open-ended and with a degree of abstraction or ambiguity. This prevents it from being a monologue, because it is a dialogue. The work is only completed when a viewer has looked at it and made his or her own decision as to the full meaning of the piece.

Neville Brody


From Debbie Millman’s, How To Think like a Great Graphic Designer (NY: Allworth Press, 2007) 72-3

Written by kirkistan

June 20, 2014 at 5:00 am

Think “Plant” Not “Preach” (Dummy’s Guide to Conversation #18)

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Monologue is dead. Long live dialogue.

You’ll be much more effective if you give up telling people what to do and instead invite them into an idea.


It’s more work on your part, of course.

Inviting your conversation partner into an idea has the advantage of letting the notion grow in their native cerebral soil versus boxing them about the ears and head with your command.

Planting seeds can also change the shape of your internal discourse. And that can become a  fresh, personal beginning point.

Check out the other 17 tips from the Dummy’s Guide to Conversation.


Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

How to Hack the Bully’s Monologue (Dummy’s Guide to Conversation #16)

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Resist the rhetoric of control

Every person has worth. Every person has something meaningful to communicate to us and vice versa.

But sometimes the guy in the corner office just wants to yank your chain. Sometimes your colleague comes in your cube too close and berates you for something that riles only her. And sometimes these work contexts make you question your worth. Today we call this bullying and officially frown on it, though bosses of all stripes let their primordial managers get away with it as long as they post results.

tumblr_mmqvvyMP6O1qbcporo1_1280-05172013In the face of the bully’s monologue, we may need to set down our goals of understanding and hearing each other. We may need to pick up tools that will help protect us from the bully. And especially as our culture talks more about innovation, we must recognize that the enemy of innovation is the bully who uses monologue to quell thinking and drive over dissent.

  1. The hack begins with dropping sycophancy. Just because the VP of marketing is telling you a personal story about his cabin doesn’t mean he isn’t trying to put you in the low place he wants you. There’s no need to continue to play the prop: the underling enamored by all the person in power does.
  2. Be present. Don’t go to the Bahamas while the bully drives his verbal tank into position.
  3. Stand. Even if sitting, assume a mentally poised place to challenge.
  4. Challenge. Is there another way of looking at the perspective the bully shouts? What is the truth here? Speaking fast and loud does not make something true.
  5. Know two things
    • You are a person, too. A person of value.
    • That language can be encouraging or damaging. Every communication encounter has a shaping effect on both conversation partners. Don’t let the bully continue unchecked.
  6. Turn the other cheek. Yes: quite. Back to Jesus the Christ who knew something about handling the bully. He knew the most effective thing long-term was to offer the bully even more. Not in every case, but dealing with the bully from a place of peace and, yes—faith (in God)—may just cut power to the BS generator the bully madly operates. This counter-intuitive step holds much promise for moving forward as a human.

Some reading this may think no modern/post-modern workplace has bullies like this. You could not be more wrong. It is interesting that the tools used to shine a light on the bully’s madness are also effective in ordinary conversations.

How do you handle the bully’s monologues?


Image credit: Used with permission from Paul Rivoche via 2headedsnake

Stuffing Spinach and How Engagement Takes a Lifetime

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Not page hits or likes, though comments get closer to true engagement


Anybody who has tried to communicate a message knows it takes time, effort and budget. Or if not budget, patience and persistence. But budget helps.

Our writers know this. Louise Erdrich in a recent talk at Concordia University about her National Book Award-winning “The Roundhouse” talked about how she incorporated themes that were important to her in a way that would still be read by readers:

“As a writer, I want to get this message across. But I’ll only do it if it is a suspense novel. I wanted to make a book that you could not put down.”

“And then I would stuff in the jurisdictional legal issues like spinach in a sandwich.”

Spinach stuffed in so you hardly realize it’s there. To get her message across, she had to write a story so compelling that a reader would willingly read on.

Today we talk constantly about apps and software and sites and techniques that allow a brand to engage with consumers. Paul Dunay writing for Forbes wonders if engagement advertising is the future of brand advertising. He thinks we are approaching a fundamental shift in brands talking with, not just at consumers. Dunay named innovative companies already pursuing dialogue over monologue using mobile platforms. Of course, we’ve been thinking about dialogue over monologue for quite a few years, but just now we’re starting to see technology that enables monologue with more ease and simplicity.

But it’s more than technology, of course. It is a firm’s willingness to listen. Listening is on the uptick. Listening is the new thing (which is so absurd it makes me laugh). It’s new because companies realize they left money on the table by constant monologue.

But getting people to care about the stuff you think is important: it’s the writer’s problem. It’s the brand’s problem. Both want to engage to such an extent that one actually takes action. Erdrich wants her readers to do something. Dunay wants to make it easier for all of us to buy the stuff we are thinking of right now.

I argue engagement takes a lifetime.

No brand manager wants to hear this, but writers in it for the long haul know this instinctively. They know they have to write to engage and inform, but engagement comes first. Teachers know this as well. Brands and their managers have yet to learn this. That’s because most engagement strategies still put the brand first, not what’s best for the consumer (though consumer need and desire rank high in engagement messaging). Those brands that have begun to succeed are learning to well, shut up and stuff the spinach inside.


Image credit: Street art by Nuxuno Xan via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

March 12, 2013 at 9:56 am

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