In How Customers Think, author Gerald Zaltman writes that metaphor is the engine of imagination. In fact, the use of metaphor together with visual imagery lies at the heart of all major advances in science.
And that’s the reason -- along with a desire to learn the art of storymaking -- that I attended James Bonnet’s Storymaking Seminar in Los Angeles last weekend.
You see, Jim teaches that the great stories are made of metaphors and metaphors are how the creative unconscious communicates with us.
These are the things (metaphors) the creative unconscious has to work with. That’s all that is available.
-- James Bonnet
In Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a metaphor that springs from the father figure archetype -- a pattern that emerges after analyzing hundreds of stories.
Metaphors enable the creative unconscious to connect with you and you to connect with the creative unconscious. And now we see why metaphor lies at the heart of all major advances in science.
As you grasp the importance of metaphor, you may find yourself thinking -- If metaphor is imagination’s engine, how do I magnify metaphor?
During the seminar, we learned how to artistically treat metaphors so they become relevant and real. We learned how to create a story by looking at story through the eyes of the problem. And we learned that the problem is the heart of a great story’s structure.
Along with Jim’s storywheel (a global positioning system for writers), these techniques assure that your story structure is based on the story problem.
If a writer bases her story on an invalid structure she will probably find her story in trouble. So when she tries to fix the story, it falls apart because the story is built on a foundation of sand. A foundation that shifts with each change, creating a flaw in another room of the story.
We often see this pattern in software development -- an application is so poorly designed that it’s easier to discard the software and start from scratch. Any yet, some bobblehead of understanding will give the nod to throw an additional $750,000 at the project in hopes that the software -- and his job -- can be saved. (If you visit Dallas be sure not to get arrested. The Dallas Morning News reports that new software for the Dallas County Jail has been gobbling up prisoners and keeping them well past their release date: 64 days in one case.)
Here’s a news flash -- You’re not going to learn how to artistically treat metaphors in business school. That’s why it’s important to study outside your field. The business field has become filled with books talking about the benefits of story, but few tell you how to craft a story. And that’s a problem. A problem that can be solved when you take Jim Bonnet’s storymaking seminar.