Part 1: What is Your Story? Building Narratives and Why They Matter

Narrative building is not just for bards, writers, and other creative professionals. It is part of our everyday lives. Our actions and our words are our life stories.

Today, I want to deconstruct this idea of the narrative, because it is far too common for people to move on after they’ve grasped the theme of a particular encounter or situation. With so many things buzzing around our lives today, it is hard to go beyond the catchphrases. But when we do, the insights that we gain can be very profound and useful.

Heteroglossia, a concept developed by Mikhail Bahktin, is a tool that can help us think through the every day things and situations in our lives. If this concept is applied correctly, it can help us make better informed decisions.

Hetero: Different. Glossia: Tongue, language.

In Russian, heteroglossia translates to “different speech-ness.” By different speech-ness, Bahktin is referring to the voices within a language. These voices do not necessarily equate to different dialects. Even within a specific dialect, there are various voices, and they are influenced by many diverse factors such as social, economic, environmental, and political factors.

Bahktin discusses how a novel and its characters exemplifies the concept of heteroglossia. Within a novel, there is the narrator, protagonist, antagonist, supporting characters, and they all speak in their own unique voices. What they say, their manners of speaking, and why they say the things they say are the results of their worldviews. If you examine a book this way, rather than a novel just being a story, a novel is really a compilation of competing narratives with each characters trying to convey their views of a situation.

The different voices in a novel.

The different voices in a novel.

Why is this important? When we examine a product, an ad, a report, or pretty much anything (really), we often take a one dimensional view of these things. This building is designed to communicate transparency. This brand is about thinking differently. This product is built with the objective to help us save more energy. The takeaway message to this white paper is to invest in this industry. When we switch our focus from the message to the voices behind this message, we can learn who is behind the message, why is the message framed in a particular way, and any hidden agendas behind it. When we are able to gather more information, we can make better decisions on how to respond to the situation.

If you don’t believe me, stay tuned for Part 2 where I will discuss how The Maury Show isn’t just about finding out who is the baby daddy.

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