Crafting a Good Problem

KJ Roelke Marcomm Leave a Comment

“Identifying our [heroes’] problems deepens their interest in the story we are telling. Every story is about somebody who is trying to solve a problem, so when we identify our [heroes’] problems, they recognize us a brand that understands them.”

Building a Storybrand, p. 57

Every Story Needs a Villain

  • Villains give stories a clear point of focus.
  • The villain doesn’t have to be a person, but it should be personified.
    • Example: All State’s Mayhem character

The 4 Characteristics of a Good Villain:

  1. The villain should be a root source. Frustration is not a villain, it’s what the villain makes us feel. Higher taxes are a good example of a villain.
  2. The villain should be relatable. When people hear us talk about the villain, they should immediately recognize it as a something they disdain.
  3. The villain should be singular. A story with too many villains falls apart due to lack of clarity.
  4. The villain should be real.

“The stronger, more evil, more dastardly the villain, the more sympathy we will have for the hero and the more the audience will want the to win in the end. This translates into audience engagement.” — p. 58

3 Levels of Conflict

“In a story, a villain initiates an external problem that causes a character to experience an internal frustration that is, quite simply, philosophically wrong.”

Building a Storybrand, p. 61

The External Problem(s)

  • Often a physical, tangible problem the Hero must overcome to save the day.
    • This works like a prized chess piece that the Hero and Villain must take control of to win
  • This is the problem we most easily think we are solving for the Hero.
    • If we were a restaurant, we’d be solving hunger.
    • A plumbing service? We’d be fixing leaky pipes/

Internal Problems

“Companies tend to sell solutions to external problems, but people buy solutions to internal problems.”

Building a Storybrand, p. 62

What frustrations or doubt arise in the Hero because of the External Problem?

Philosophical Problem

The Why.

A philosophical problem can be best talked about using terms like “ought” and “shouldn’t.” “Bad people shouldn’t be allowed to win” or “People ought to be treated fairly.”

Example: Tesla

  • Villain: Gas guzzlers & inferior technology
  • External: I need a car
  • Internal: I want to be an early adopter of new technology
  • Philosophical: My choice of car ought to help save the environment (and thus, the World).

Example: Nespresso Home Coffee Machines

  • Villain: Coffee machines that make bad coffee
  • External: I want better-tasting coffee at home
  • Internal: I want my coffee maker that makes me feel sophisticated
  • Philosophical: I shouldn’t have to be a barista to make gourmet coffee at home.

Example: Edward Jones Financial Planning

  • Villain: Financial firms that don’t listen to their customers
  • External: I need investment help
  • Internal: I’m confused about how to do this
  • Philosophical: If I’m going to invest my money, I deserve an advisor who will thoughtfully explain things in person.

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