The Six Trajectories of Storytelling

MIT Technology Review: “Andrew Reagan at the Computational Story Lab at the University of Vermont in Burlington and a few pals … have used sentiment analysis to map the emotional arcs of over 1,700 stories and then used data-mining techniques to reveal the most common arcs. ‘We find a set of six core trajectories which form the building blocks of complex narratives,’ they say.”

“The six basic emotional arcs are these: A steady, ongoing rise in emotional valence, as in a rags-to-riches story such as Alice‚Äôs Adventures Underground by Lewis Carroll. A steady ongoing fall in emotional valence, as in a tragedy such as Romeo and Juliet. A fall then a rise, such as the man-in-a-hole story, discussed by Vonnegut. A rise then a fall, such as the Greek myth of Icarus. Rise-fall-rise, such as Cinderella. Fall-rise-fall, such as Oedipus.”

“It turns out the most popular are stories that follow the Icarus and Oedipus arcs and stories that follow more complex arcs that use the basic building blocks in sequence. In particular, the team says the most popular are stories involving two sequential man-in-hole arcs and a Cinderella arc followed by a tragedy.”

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