Storytelling Trick #3 of 50 – “Meaning Reversals”

By Melanie Anne Phillips

This storytelling trick is excerpted from my book, 50 Sure-Fire Storytelling Tricks!

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Trick 3

Meaning Reversals (Shifting Context to Change Meaning)

Reversals change context. In other words, part of the meaning of anything we consider is due to its environment. The phrase, guilt by association, expresses this notion. In storytelling, we can play upon audience empathy and sympathy by making it like or dislike something, only to have it find out it was mistaken.

There is an old Mickey Mouse cartoon called Mickey’s Trailer which exemplifies this nicely. The story opens with Mickey stepping from his house in the country with blue skies and white clouds. He yawns, stretches, then pushes a button on the house. All at once, the lawn roll up, the fence folds in and the house becomes a trailer. Then, the sky and clouds fold up revealing the trailer is actually parked in a junkyard. Certainly a reversal from our original understanding.

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