The Emotional Arcs of Stories

Kurt Vonnegut, about a thousand years after Aristotle, famously mapped out the many shapes of stories, but now Andrew Reagan at the Computational Story Lab at the University of Vermont in Burlington has mapped out the emotional arcs of stories. He used sentiment analysis and over 1,700 stories to produce the most common emotional arcs of stories. He found six core arcs.

The six basic emotional arcs are these:

A steady, ongoing rise in emotional valence, as in a rags-to-riches story such as Alice’s Adventures Underground by Lewis Carroll. A steady ongoing fall in emotional valence, as in a tragedy such as Romeo and Juliet. A fall then a rise, such as the man-in-a-hole story, discussed by Vonnegut. A rise then a fall, such as the Greek myth of Icarus. Rise-fall-rise, such as Cinderella. Fall-rise-fall, such as Oedipus.

...It turns out the most popular are stories that follow the Icarus and Oedipus arcs and stories that follow more complex arcs that use the basic building blocks in sequence. In particular, the team says the most popular are stories involving two sequential man-in-hole arcs and a Cinderella arc followed by a tragedy.

~ Technology Review


Serial Entrepreneurship

Growing up I don't think anyone ever suspected I would be an entrepreneur. I certainly didn't. But one day the light bulb went off. I had an idea. And I just knew. Like romance novels detail the first meeting of a romantic partner. I've never experienced that feeling, but when the idea for Consorte hit me, I was smitten. Having an idea, I quickly learned, was the easy part. Making it happen, neh willing it to happen, was the truly difficult task.

And what they don't tell you about entrepreneurship, about corralling a bunch of people behind your vision, about battling misconceptions and skepticism, about hiring people and firing people, about pinching pennies and clawing for dollars, is what an emotional roller coaster it all is.

The ride never stops.

If it does, it's at the precipice, those scary interminable moments before you plummet, your stomach in your throat.

It's a wonder then that after getting off the ride (my first company was acquired last year) that I am getting back on.

What I've learned is entrepreneurship is life and life is entrepreneurship. In life, if you choose to engage in it, you will be forced to grow and scale back, bring people in and let people go, change markets and yes, even reevaluate your product. In the end, to stop creating, building, and growing would mean to stop living.

So when you think about it we're all serial entrepreneurs. Starting, stopping and starting all over again. Life and entrepreneurship require constant movement and reinvention. Looking back I now realize I was an entrepreneur all along - a serial entrepreneur. And maybe, now you will see, you are one, too. I hope you enjoy the ride.