I was listening to a Radio Lab show called “Fate and Fortune” on NPR today in which there was a conversation about what makes a good story. Under discussion was the success of the Road Runner cartoon. The speakers contended that the power of that cartoon comes from the coyote’s story: the coyote is always unsuccessful against elements like gravity, and the leveling effect of that ongoing failure makes him a sympathetic figure–a very human one.
I started to wonder whether this is another of the elements that we can watch for as we do storytelling, especially when it’s successful. Is the failure of the main character something that makes the learners buy in to the story more, because then they draw a parallel with their own lives? And if the main character succeeds, does that give us all a feeling of relief because we see how a hero can prevail in the way that we hope we can prevail?
PS The particular show, which is a series of vignettes mostly about whether we can predict a life’s trajectory by early indicators (including whether four-year-olds can delay eating Oreos), is here.