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Winning the Story Wars

In Winning the Story Wars, Jonah Sachs (2012) underscores that in order to make a story successful, paying attention at the prominent elements of the story such as conflict, character, and plot is not enough. Furthermore, Jonah Sachs admits that an eye-catching message is based on freaks, cheats, and familiars. In his book, he explains each notion and its role in a story.

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First of all, the author notifies that “one of the most interesting types of human beings is a novel human being – a freak” (191). People are always interested in others, but they are always inclined to concern themselves with those who “instantly stand out from the crowd” (191). Jonah Sachs emphasizes on the fact that human nature makes a personality prefer not to pay much attention to the strangers as we meet them everywhere. Moreover, meeting strangers has already become a usual thing for us. On the other hand, a person can not help noticing a stranger who seems to be queer for him/her. In this case, person’s attention is attracted, and he/she desires to examine everything that is unusual. This data makes it clear that irrespective of the topic it is necessary to talk about, a person should always bring his/her point of view or ideas “out of the abstraction of facts and claims and into the realm of expectation-breaking characters” (191). The audience takes much concern on the actions of these freak characters, and this is one of the most successful ways to grab their attention. Jonah Sachs highlights freaks as an inspiration of the listeners’ or watchers’ emotions. As a rule, these emotions can be different: aspiration, fear, attraction, curiosity, but everything that is emotionalizing can not help being eye-catching and memorable.

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Familiars are as much relevant in making a successful story as freaks; what is more, they are closely connected to each other. It is impossible to guarantee a positive interaction if there is a freak in a story, but communication markers are not simple or, in other words, familiar, a story does not grab the attention of the audience. This fact is of considerable importance for an abundance of advertisers. In our contemporary life, advertisements as well as commercials are so wide-spread that people are often likely not to notice them like in the situation with strangers’ faces. However, an advertisement, which contains a freak in its content, is successful on the assumption of familiar communicative elements in it. If these elements are present, a freak does not remain just to be a freak. It becomes familiar and even beloved. Jonah Sachs admits that the adoption of the familiars strategy adds a brain-storming, attention-grabbing element” (196) to the story.

Cheats are quite significant for every story-telling, as well. They are defined to be those people who are against the social norms of behavior which have already been established. When a character of a story, who is a cheat, becomes a villain, it promises to become more interesting for the audience. It is possible if a new norm is created, and this norm is admired by the listeners or the readers. Moreover, a lot of norms are under question, and some of them even disappear as they are considered to be unjust. The story is of much interest if these situations are included in it. In this case, readers observe a cheat who becomes a positive character. Jonah Sachs provides several examples of this phenomenon; one of them is Pretty Woman, a film which describes some social class constraints, which are torn down. A main character is a cheat who, at the same time, becomes a villain of some social stereotypes. In numerous cases, a story is successful because of a cheat who becomes humorous in the story, and, in this way, he/she does not seem to be a negative character.

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In conclusion, it is noteworthy to emphasize on the fact that freaks, cheats, and familiars play an integral role in storytelling. Taking into account the classical elements of the story is not a key way to make a story interesting for the audience. An author should not only take into consideration pure facts but also understand the necessity to include freaks, familiars, and cheats in the story as they have a considerable impact on the reader and make the story more fascinating attention-grabbing and thought-provoking.  

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