So, you can see now the structure of stories, right? The first half is mirroring the second half, there’s this symmetry here. And whenever you have two halves, they need to connect at some point. And that is… the “midpoint”. The Midpoint is the key event of a story, because it brings the insight to solve the problem. In The Godfather, it’s the first time Michael Corleone kills therefore, putting family before civility… and he loves it.
In The Lion King, it’s when Mufasa, the lion king, dies, and his son realizes he cannot be a brat anymore. He will have to eventually grow up and become the lion king. In Toy Story, it’s when Buzz and Woody are kidnapped, and they realize if they don’t stoop bickering, they will die. In The Force Awakens, it’s when Rey touches the lightsaber and she realizes she might be a Jedi too. So this is the structure of stories, and you can see that it’s like a ring.
The “ring structure”. And this structure happens everywhere, not just the movies I just told you about. You can see it in Hamlet, in Macbeth. In fact, in most of Shakespeare’s works. You can see it, even farther down… Beowulf? The first epic in English language has a ring structure. Farther down? What about Buddha’s life? And then you can go also not just for stories, but sagas. For example, every Star Wars trilogy is a “ring”. And all six movies are a ring too, the first six movies.
In Harry Potter, every book is a ring. All seven together are a ring. And you can also see that at the micro level: for a good story, every act, every scene is a ring. Why is this structure everywhere? Why can we find it really everywhere? Is there something fundamental about it? Well, it’s the structure of problem-solving. You state the problem. You explore the problem. You bring the insight to solve the problem. You explore the insight. And you solve it. Stories are problem-solving.
So no I’m telling you that stories are problem-solving, and I told you five minutes ago that they’re empathy machines, right? How do you put these two things together? Stories are a way to get into somebody else’s brain to see how we solve problems. Or put in another way, stories are a way to learn.
See, hundreds of thousands of years ago, Homo sapiens were not the strongest, they were not the fastest. But we were the best at solving problems. Those who loved stories the most could solve more problems. They could survive more. They could have more children and spread their genes. And that is how we have evolved to love stories because they teach us.
See, that hunter, he would have never shared those bullet points, right? He would have said: “Oh, when I was your age I was hungry one day, so I went to the forest to hunt. As I got close to the river, I saw a lion and the lion saw me — So I started running away, but he was faster than me so I jumped up a tree and I saved myself.” And what would the younglings say? “Oh, wow! I should not go close to the river, there’s predators there. I should not try to outrun a lion. And if I’m in danger, I should climb up a tree.” The very same lessons that they would never remember before are now drilled in their minds.
You want to use this power of stories? You listen to me and you listen to me well. Are you tired of trying to teach people stuff, but they don’t remember anything? Stop shoving your facts and start wrapping them in stories! Are you tired of trying to convince people of stuff but they don’t attend to reasons? Stop ramming your reasons down their throats and start using stories. But don’t just use one story once. Use stories at home, use stories at school, use stories at work, everywhere, every day! You, TEDsters, have the unique intellectual curiosity to seek the truth. Master storytelling and you will spread it. Thank you.