You know the phrase “lost in a good book.” The book’s story is so compelling that you are absorbed by the characters, setting, actions, and plot. The book pulls you into the narrative such that you must continue to read—even if that means staying up all night to finish the book. Because many associate that immersive experience with reading a novel, the phrase “lost in a good book” is most often connected to reading for pleasure. But the experience of being transported by the words of a narrative can occur when reading a variety of texts, including legal texts. That is because legal texts—both litigation-based documents and transactional documents—are, like novels, narratives.
Transactional documents may initially appear to be simply compilations of standard provisions, but they are in fact narratives. Consider, for instance, a contract between an architect and a newly formed LLC for blueprints to convert a historic home into a bed and breakfast. Or contemplate the gift agreement between a local businessperson and her alma mater that will establish an endowment to support scholarships for gifted students to attend the university. A local family farm and a newly created farm-to-table restaurant may enter into an agreement for the provision of organically grown fruits and vegetables throughout the year. These legal documents not only comprise part of an individual’s story but also become complete stories themselves. These texts present a series of related events in which characters perform actions anticipating particular resolutions of these events. In other words, these documents are narratives.
Transactional documents contain provisions related to the wishes, hopes, fears, and choices of the transacting parties. These documents are not merely memorializations of past events. They are documents that authors construct to guide and inform future behavior. They create the legal obligations and rights of the transacting parties. As such, it follows that the transacting parties are both performing roles within the narratives and are the readers of those narratives. The provisions in the transactional document must be accurately processed, recalled, and acted upon by these parties. The inclusion of narrative within transactional documents can help the readers become more immersed in the document and thus lead to more effective outcomes throughout the life of the transaction.
This Article will begin by highlighting the power of narrative and defining narrative transportation. The Article will then address the power of narrative transportation and its impact on readers. It will then explore how narrative transportation applies to transactional documents. To better understand how narrative transportation may apply to transactional documents, including both its potential benefits and limits, the Article will first define the transactional reader. Then, the Article will showcase the benefits that narrative transportation offers by presenting two excerpted transactional documents. One document does not use narrative techniques while the other incorporates select narrative techniques. This illustration will enable readers to see first-hand the impact of narrative transportation on the transactional reader.
Susan M. Chesler & Karen J. Sneddon, From Clause A to Clause Z: The Transactional Reader and Narrative Transportation, 71 S.C. L. Rev. 247 (2019).