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|Murder: Fascinated and Revolted|
Last week I tried to say something about the very basics of content that sells.
You have something they want and they cannot do it themselves.
But this is entertainment. What people want is mysterious and highly personal. How can you generalize?
That’s what we try to do.
Last week I suggested that one of the things that excite people is a place where they would like to be.
One of the reasons US content is so popular – but only one – is because it has been, for the last century, a country where enterprising people could go and live, a destination of choice, a place you could dream about.
In the process it became a familiar place – which is another condition for content that travels. There needs to be some element of familiarity.
So if your location is not a familiar one, you will need to figure how to make it both familiar and interesting. For Familiarity and Novelty are both essential. Relevance is important, too. People will be interested in a location that is cool, fashionable, leading edge in some way, a place they would want to visit or a way of life they might like to be part of….
In addition, you need, in the main, to show people whom the audiences can look up to, characters who are smart, or good looking or brave or enterprising and who show it in the things they do or say. As I have said in a previous post, evolution has provided us with a need for behaviour models. It’s how we learn what to do, how to behave.
There are other things that matter deeply, so much so that you can revisit them again and again and again, concerns that come from deep in our evolutionary past. For example, we are obsessed with murder. Perhaps that is because humans only survived by living in groups that held together because the punished murder –, most of us have a deep revulsion for murder and a deep desire to see the murder caught and punished.
But that deep code of instinctive justice also drives the desire for revenge – which often comes into play when a justice system breaks down. These instinct sometimes fight one another create conflicts which interest us greatly.
By the same token we are endlessly interested in sex and love. Biologists would say that that our role is to carry genes forward into the next generation so we ha e an instinctive interest in everything to do with reproduction, finding the best mate, etc..
Something else: we talk about the same sorts of things endlessly. And we spend huge amounts of time talking about mutual acquaintance or people who are famous or important. Have you ever wondered why? Scientists think this “gossip instinct” is our way of staying in touch with the things that mattered most to us humans for most of our evolutionary history. Who is my friend? Who can I trust? Diaries, notes, writing, are all very recent inventions in evolutionary terms. Gossip was our way finding what we need to know about what mattered most, the small group of others who were our world through most of evolutionary life.
All this sounds very simple. But what matters is how it plays out in reality, and that is always complex.
We have researched everything we could find that tells about how we behave the way we do. Ancient instincts still shape our taste for stories. The appeal of a story is often complex, often contradictory. Our approach is far from being widely accepted, but it is getting good results.
So we will go on investigating what drives a human’s interest in stories.