WJI Day 12: Crossing the finish line

May 30, 2015

Day 12- WJI

By Abigail Reese 

We crossed the finish line.

After 14 days jam-packed full of intellectually stimulating speakers, intense writing assignments, and multi-media projects, we put our metaphorical robes on today and graduated.

Our commencement speaker, Kenan Minkoff, came to us from Kings College. With a background in law, psychology and literature, he passionately explained Aristotle’s elements of dramatic story telling. He provided us a model which he called the “golden keys” of story-telling.

The keys are as follows, in order of importance:

The story must have a compelling plot, a moral purpose and final thought that is universally applicable. These key elements are tied together by the diction and words chosen to write the story.

Keenin used an example from OJ Simpson’s trial to explain. In Simpson’s court case a preponderance of evidence suggested he was guilty. A bloody glove, suicide attempts, and his past track record of crime should have put him behind bars. Instead, attorneys used a thematic story to defeat the evidence. They weaved a tale of a police officer who planted the glove and blood in Simpson’s backyard due to racist motives. The story trumped the evidence.  

In order for a story to have that power, it must follow this model: A protagonist chasing an object of desire. This desire compels the character to move forward, but antagonisms cause obstacles along the way. Antagonisms, described by Stanislovski, include intra personal, inter personal and extra personal challenges that create a gap between expectations and results. When the gap grows large, the protagonist makes a decision to again take action to follow their desire. The protagonist reaches for their desire, but is thwarted by another obstacle. This cycle of repetition represents the fractl nature of stories. More simply, characters repeat similar patterns until they reach their object of desire, which finally resolves the story.

“Stories are the cognitive mechanism by which people recognize reality,” Keenin said.

This truth became a reality as we showed our final videos for the class.

We saw the reality of seven unique protagonists around the Asheville area. Students interviewed a variety of people yesterday and made a 90 second video. These videos included a ride along with a police officer, a profile of a busker, a health-nut’s renovated food truck, a radio DJ and a folk singer.

Popcorn in hand, we watched the stories and sat transfixed. We grasped new truths about the human experience. With the ending credits came the end to WJI. Thomas sang a song of goodbyes and tears started to flow.

As I sit in the hostel writing this post, I already miss the other students. I am so thankful for the people I met and the friendships that developed.

My time at the WJI taught me to boldly chase down stories, to trust God and to put humans first before journalism. I’d like to thank Lee Pitts, Dr. Marvin and Susan Olasky for organizing this course, and for investing into my writing. Their wisdom shall be put to good use. 

For more information:

World Journalism Institute