The Hitchhiker's Guide To Nostalgia

The Hitchhiker's Guide To Nostalgia
What exactly is nostalgia and how do you harness it for your own storytelling? This week, we break down how to build this container of emotions by taking you on a journey through the different acts of nostalgia.

We wanted to try something different this week. A few of you have been asking for a how-to on telling stories, so here it is. We thought we'd take everything we had learned from the last few episodes surrounding the power of nostalgia and break down how you can employ it in your own stories.

From emotion, through atmosphere, and even a bit of pathfinding (yes we get the irony), we really went deep into what creates a brief moment of comfort and escape for audiences interfacing with their favourite characters and places.

This episode was written by Ollie Judge and edited by Rodger Morley. You can find more of their work at Adrift Entertainment.


Ollie: [00:00:00] This is going to be an episode about storytelling. It's not going to be about someone who tells stories or a specific medium. What comes next is a breakdown of why for just a moment, stories can hold us where we are and allow us to escape. Welcome to Pathfinder and all guide to designing nostalgia

[00:00:22] memory

[00:00:25] like any good lie. The trick to getting a story to stick is starting with something your audience knows and not just something they're a little bit aware of something they know and believe at their core. The difficulty with this is that you've also got to find something that enough people from enough walks of life can relate to.

[00:00:44] In some ways it has to be innocent. A neutral last week we charted the world of children's books. This is a good place to start children's books assume nothing of that audience, because nothing has happened to them yet. So taking a beat out of children's stories. What's the thing that most people share emotions.

[00:01:03] It doesn't matter where you're from. You felt happiness, sadness, anger, and love. We're designing for nostalgia here though. And while the root of the word may allude to the pain of an old wound, you don't remember something fondly, if you felt negatively towards the moment in time. So we're going to lean into the emotions that uplift us.

[00:01:21] And take them to their extremes where so soulmates human web, a completely taken aback from something that's happened to us in life. This can be broken down into a few experiences, one being wonder, which is a natural payoff to discovery being so much in or of the thing that you uncovered. We like to talk about Jurassic park here quite a bit on Pathfinder.

[00:01:42] Roger son is a big dinosaur fan, but the sense of all can be experienced during the first time that you see a dinosaur roaming in the park with humans while the premise is somewhat fantastical, that element of discovery is something that we can all connect with. The second is connection or more importantly, reconnection the damsel in distress, the estranged father, the relationship that you thought was lost, but now is found everyone has something that they've lost and found again.

[00:02:09] Whether it was a toy when you were a child or a person, when you were an adult, there was a moment of relief and joy in re-establishing a link with someone that you thought it was gone. The third is taking connection up one level love. There's a reason, love stories is so prevalent. It's because all of us can understand it.

[00:02:28] We all want find someone to love and be loved it also, it doesn't really matter how old you are. Love comes in all kinds of shapes and forms. It doesn't have to be between a couple. It could be between a father and a daughter. These experiences, these memories are what forms the bedrock of nostalgia baking these emotional concepts at the foundation of your story, automatically, route your narrative in something people know, something that they can relate to and more importantly, share with someone else

[00:03:01] to environment. What's the thing that you associate most with nostalgia. It's probably comfort. The stories you fondly remember trigger a sense of familiarity while some of that is down to your understanding of the story. More of it is related to your understanding of the world. The story existed in order to cement a deep connection with your audience.

[00:03:25] You need to explain where you are while so many stories have been adapted to film, TV, or video games. You still hold a version of the world stories portray in your mind, you have a map of how the grounds of Hogwarts exist in your mind. You know your version of the interior of two, two, one B Baker street, and you know exactly where to hit a death star to make sure the empire doesn't quite reach the extent

[00:03:47] that

[00:03:47] Ollie: [00:03:47] plans many of these places you can actually go to, but they are written and designed in such a way that you believe that you're there.

[00:03:56] Unpacking star Wars a little bit more while a universe of spaceships, alien races and forth wizards might seem a bit far off the dirty dusk at you. World is more reminiscent of a desert. We can understand because it exists here on our own world. It's that belief that you could go there that builds the next level of nostalgia.

[00:04:17] We've talked about stories that allow you to tell your own stories within them before that's exactly what creating the environment does. You're allowing your audience to play in your toy box. They forget their own worries and play with the things that you put there. You've done all of the hard work of digging the sand pit, filling it with sand and placing the toys.

[00:04:37] All they have to do is show up when they to show up, you show them round with your story. You show them where the fun places to go and warn them of the perils that they may encounter elsewhere. What you're creating in an environment is a way of people being able to explore their memories. If done right, your world allows people to play out their own problems or fantasies within your world.

[00:04:58] It's a safe place for them to work through things. A form of therapy. The reason they can do this is because of comfort to establish a safe atmosphere. You've got to create some safe spaces. Yes, your story may include danger or even death, but there should always be a place for people to come back to a castle.

[00:05:15] They can call home a bedroom where your parents told you stories. Or Shaya where all of your friends and everything is designed for you environments, aren't just a place though. They're also people or beings as much as I'm going to kick myself for saying this minions, the mumblings slapstick yellow underlings from despicable me provide an amazing sense of place while they definitely stand on the shoulders of giants like green aliens from toy story minion provide believability is set dressing.

[00:05:46] But also a character in a mostly stock world cruise or underground lab and dark mentioned would be rather stale without minions. When your audience come to visit your world, they don't want to land in a place with no activity. That would be a bit creepy. So think about what your environment is filled with.

[00:06:04] Who's there, what's happening. What would make your audience fall in love with the wealth that they are currently inhabiting so much that they want to go back there? Creatures settings and feelings set the atmosphere for how your story works. It's the rule book. It should all tie back to the theme of the emotion that you picked at the start.

[00:06:22] All roads should lead back to what you want to achieve, but leave enough room for your audience to find their own way at their own pace, right. Is constantly try and write something that will stick with that audience. Your first thought might be to try and write some wonderfully twisty, thriller, or psychologically wrenching horror story.

[00:06:39] The stories you keep coming back to though. It's the worlds that you can keep reinventing in your own head kept three story. Mister Roger is perception. It's the understanding of story, but not the story itself. We've all had a film that we loved as a child, but then when we rewatched as an adult, realize how laughably bad it is.

[00:07:01] I feel for the amount of times that I put my parents through Joel Schumacher's Batman, Robin, my name is freeze. Wow. When people remember a story Fundly, it's not because they remember every detail it's because they remember the idea of a story. And your story has one very important role in all of this.

[00:07:20] You've already chosen your emotion. Your moment in time, you want to get people to you've already designed your world and the rules that follows. So how do your audience find that emotion at the bottom of all of this? They need a map. Your story is the map. All stories taught the way through a world. From behind the characters eyes, they established the safe place, the dangerous places, and places of wonder your characters are the vehicle people use to navigate the world.

[00:07:47] Characters can signal fear or happiness towards certain events. They're in effect the barometer for the audience. If something is so alien, how is someone supposed to feel? Sometimes big, ugly monsters are friendly. So you need your character to display some kind of affection towards the beast. Using the old advertising adage, tell your audience what you want them to do is exactly what you should be doing in your stories, the ideas and perception of your story.

[00:08:13] That your audience takeaway is planted by you. Finally, the most important part of designing nostalgia is also the most important part of storytelling. Do you need to give your audience the ability to retell your story? Like I mentioned before, no one is going to remember your story beat for beat. Your story is not going to be perfect.

[00:08:33] So how do you make the best bits so accessible that someone could lift your world and a section of your story and tell someone else. The most effective way of learning something is by trying to teach it. So the act of a seven year old child explaining the world of transformers to his friend, so that they can go and pretend to be optimist prime or that time that you love to film so much you over enthusiastically retold an entire film.

[00:08:55] That's in a party with the preface of this is a bit of a spoiler, but I've got to tell you this bit. Of course, these acts are what nostalgia is made of. Storytelling is a communication mechanism. It's how we learn. When you retell your favorite stories, you're trying to teach your friends the way through the wealth that you enjoyed.

[00:09:14] You're trying to bring them on an adventure. Your story might be complex. Willy Wonka's factory has a myriad of rooms. Wonderland is several different worlds in one, and Gotham is filled to the brim with all sorts of evil characters. Each story within those stories though is quite simple. Good overcomes evil girl gets the guy or the Explorer finds the thing.

[00:09:35] These simple stories within big stories are the gateway to great retellings. They help them audiences that your audience is teaching. Understand the basics of your story so they can dive into the larger world. Headfirst nostalgia is quite undefinable. It strikes in different ways at different times.

[00:09:52] It's a container of emotions that inspires random bursts of storytelling or sudden yearns to escape, creating a story that will stick with people through thick and thin is hard, but it is achievable at the bottom of all of this is the concept of creating a simple story. That's as relatable as possible in that relate-ability though, and the understanding of your world, the thing that will stay with people is the notion of people finding their own path.

[00:10:17] Becoming Pathfinders in their own version of your story.