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Shock as Propaganda in Storytelling

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Shock as Propaganda in Storytelling

Postby Charles » Sat Jun 11, 2011 11:33 am

Here's an interesting excerpt dealing with breaking story paradigms through shock and disruption. For the full article follow the link at the bottom.


Shock as Propaganda
by Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley

One tried-and-true method is to control what an audience knows about the story before experiencing the storytelling process so you can shock them. Within the context of the story itself (as opposed to marketing or word-of-mouth), an author can prepare the audience by setting up certain givens, and then purposely break the storyform (destroy the givens) to shock or jar the audience. This hits the audience at a preconscious level by inviting an instantaneous, knee-jerk reaction. This type of propaganda is the most specific and immediately jarring on its audience. Two films that employed this technique to great effect are Psycho and The Crying Game.

Psycho broke the storyform to shock the audience's preconscious by killing the main character twenty minutes or so into the film (the real" story about the Bates family then takes over). The shock value was strengthened through marketing by having the main character played by big box office draw Janet Leigh (a good storytelling choice at the time). They used a marketing gimmick to help set up the shock. No one was allowed into the movie after the first five or ten minutes. This gimmick" was essential for the propaganda to be effective. It takes time for an audience to identify on a personal level with a main character. Coming in late to the film would not allow enough time for the audience member to identify with Janet Leigh's character and her death would have...

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