Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Malcolm Gladwell and the Imperfect Puzzle

Writer Malcolm Gladwell [credit: Masterclass.com]

I am making my way through the Masterclass series, where filmmakers, dramatists, actors, architects, cooks and writers share their stories and techniques.

I was listening to Malcolm Gladwell discuss writing in one "Masterclass" and he said something that may be beneficial to creating solo shows.

He was discussing this idea of "the imperfect puzzle" and illustrating that sometimes a narrative is intersting if the pieces "don't all fit together perfectly." He used as an example an article he was reading written by a British researcher in the 1970s. 

The researcher was tasked with investigating juvenile delinquents around the United Kingdom. What the researcher found was that there were schools where students always ran away, and schools where no students ran away. The researcher hypothesized that deliquency had something to do with the schools themselves not the students. The article, however, ends with no conclusions. The researcher states he was called to research some other subject and never found out what exactly was causing juvenile delinquecy around England.

Gladwell cites this as an example of an open-ended puzzle. The reader doesn't get a perfect argument with an obvious conclusive answer. Instead the article is memorable and caused Gladwell to ruminate, not jut with a kind of WTF? mentality, but to reflect, himself, on what could have been causing the juvenile delinquency.

This may be something to bear in mind when creating a solo show. Does your character need to answer every question that arises? Solve every dilemma? Could it be more dynamic, more memorable, more intriguing by leaving certain summations out?

Anyway, food for thought.


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