Ran across a blog by Oswald Iten one post he was reviewing this german book called The Audience Contract by Roland Zag
Iten sums up the book as trying to pin down what "heart" in a story actually is. Zag apparently looked at a ton of films, box office smashes and others, beyond their opening weekend (the thought being opening weekend success is based off of advertising, but continued success is based off of word of mouth.)
It's interesting to me because it's looking at story telling from a social psychology interpersonal frame of view. What it boils down to is that audiences get emotionally involved in a story when the character's social circles get out of whack, they want to see the characters stay true to themselves and find balance again in their social circles (family, romantic relationships, work, citizen, etc.)
The books blog has an English summary. (which is where these notes are copy pasted from)
The human factor approach suggests that stories are fundamentally about belonging.
Empathy & Desire
Dynamics between people - individuals or groups - can be broken down to acts and principles of give and take. The viewers watch and measure who is giving a lot and who is taking a lot, they root for the givers and boo for the takers, and hope that everyone gets what they deserve in the end.
A well-constructed story starts off by conveying some strong social inequity, and after developing the plot it creates a desire for equity. The farther the characters or events deviate from the inner yardstick as defined by the spectator, the stronger the desire of the spectator for the story line to return to a "happy medium", an equilibrium, a homeostasis. It will be up to the author to decide how far this desire will be fulfilled or denied.
Emotional Trigger Mechanism
to connect with the viewers' emotions:
The core of a story is always a high level of social inequity. Accordingly, it focuses mostly on reaching social equity. The protagonists' goals must be related to the central social inequity.
Characters who are descriminated against by the group get sympathy, characters who take to much get disliked
The more characters give the more they're liked. Giving could be signs of affection, solidarity, assistance, etc.
Bad guys are worse and good guys are better if they have a posse backing them
The audience will care more proportianolly the harder it is for a character to:
a) join a group (how much does the character have to give)
b) leave a group (how much do they have to give up)
c) endure a group
d) endure outside the group if they want to be in it
Strata of ethics
9 different areas of life the audience will want to see give and take brought into balance, here's where the balance should be:
individual: being true to self and self determined will, act to entitled you'll lose sympathy,
family: support and respect each other
friends: friendship and loyalty, betrayal is the worst vice
group: peer pressure man, audience likes the characters who stay true to themselves
couples: mutual contributions
gender, generation, ethnic group: stay true to your people
state/law: depends how close characters sense of justice matches state means go with or against the MAN
ideals: stay true to your ideals
humanity: be a good person (don't kick puppies, help the elderly etc.)
Identity and Fulfilment of Demands
A strong script has as many unbalanced areas of life as possible to get the audience really worked up. Suck them in so they feel overwhelmed then give them an acceptable solution to put all the troubles to rest. The overarching problem is always between an individual and the demands of all the areas of life they are part of.