MAYA Storytelling

The MAYA Design principle teaches one to be “Most advanced, yet acceptable.”
This also applies to storytelling.

Let’s have a look at both parts:

Most advanced

The things we want to communicate by storytelling are different from the ones that surround us now.

"everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones." 
- Horst Rittel

So, after deciding that a specific situation needs to change, we design a preferred version of the situation. If we want to change worldviews and whole societies, we have to redesign a few more situations. Thus, step by step, we create new worlds.

yet acceptable

But new worlds can quickly become overwhelming, confusing and even disturbing. To avoid this, we can embed the changed situations into known – positive – ones. We also can emphasize the unchanged parts of the situation. This makes it easier to accept what you offer.

"People like to be told what they already know. Remember that. They get uncomfortable when you tell them new things. New things . . . well, new things aren't what they expect. They like to know that, say, a dog will bite a man. That is what dogs do. They don't want to know that a man bites a dog, because the world is not supposed to happen like that. In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds."
 - Terry Pratchett, The Truth

The stories we tell to communicate projects shouldn’t be haute cuisine. They’re more like the well established traditional food your grandma cooks. Don’t throw complex sci-fi worlds at people. Instead, assure them that a lot of things won’t change at all, and the ones that do change, are just going to change this bit.

the difficulty of finding the right balance

If we want to take our situations seriously, we should be thorough in considering implications.
To be understood, we should reduce our story to only include the necessary situations, the ones that communicate best how things will be, and that nothing very much changes at all.
So we have to choose which elements to include and how to form them into a plot. This may sound banal, but this is where the art of writing comes into play. And/or of having good strategies. There’s more to come on this end.

Also published on Medium.

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