Stories have been shared - written and spoken - for centuries, which makes it all the more impossible to have a definite hold on what it is to write one. We can all practice and and experiment with our own brand. Some do better than others. Stephen King comes to mind. David Sedaris and Chuck Palahniuk strike me too. And we can't forget all the other artists and media that happen to captivate us from podcasts to oil paintings to magazines spreads.
To say anything definitive and encapsulating about The Story would be impossible for me to even begin in one email.
What I have to enjoy and share this week is my slow shift to storytelling. I'm not trying to write the Next Great American Novel yet. (That's on the back burner, though.) What I've started to find is that I want to be able to share the great ideas I find in my endless Internet scavenger hunts in a form that's less stated fact and more of an answer to how all the characters and conflicts could connect with us.
Believe it or not, it took Comedy Central's new series Drunk History for me to realize my need for storytelling. Take one comedian with a good historic story, load 'em up with booze, and let 'em go - that's the premise. Have some other comedians and actors lip-sync the drunk re-telling history's events and you have gold.
What I saw was what I enjoyed the most with people close to me, finding myself a couple drinks at a bar with music low enough we could hear one another, telling stories of our shared or not-so-shared pasts. Sometimes, they are rekindlings of fights that are laughable now, other times it's how we caught wind of a great trend happening out there in the world and how we're left to pick up our jaws from the floor and go home to find out more.
Stories are the stuff of our days, not just our weekends. We are stories and we connect through them. Why else would our brains be positively attracted to boxes and screens that produce color and sounds? It's fascinating! And for ourselves, what better story is the story of our lives? We're the captains, we're the authors. We're driving this sucker till the wheels fall off!
The more time we're saturated with this storied culture, the more important it becomes. We need to be radically shaken to feel the strongest of emotions from a good story. Since it's coming down to it, there are some basic elements of the story we can't avoid telling.
There needs to be conflict. A story is not "I did this, this and this." It's why you did this, this and this that makes us wonder, laugh, cheer, or shake our heads.
There needs to be resolution. In a way. We need to take something away from the time we put in to experiencing the story itself. It could be more questions, it could be answers. We want something. We want to feel moved.
Most of it all it has to keep the audience's attention. This is the reason a story exists: to be heard and to connect. With all the voices clashing for our collective attention, I think Jason Silva explained it well:
The management of our attention, our ability to orient our awareness towards specific mental 'spaces', defines experience design.
— Jason Silva (@JasonSilva) June 22, 2013
It's not enough to have a great idea. Tell us a story about it!
With that being said, the most important reason why I decide to put words together every week is because I want to make everything a bit better. If that means you can use an idea I found on the Internet to redefine or restart your life, I'm always glad to do it. Figuring out how is the fun part.
Until next time...
I explode into space.