Tag Archives: #storytelling

Trust: One Syllable, Five Letters, Years in the Making

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Steve Bryant has an all-too-true piece about the rapport between brands and content titled “Make relationships, not things.” Or, as the byline goes, “You can’t ‘thing’ your way to people trusting you.”

I like that, ’cause I don’t like it when people try and thing me.

What’s interesting about the article, however, is not just the down-to-earth, interpersonal aspect to Mr. Bryant’s writing, but the fact that the lessons can be applied to so many different facets of life. And one of those is writing/storytelling:

“All storytelling decisions begin with deciding what kind of relationship you want to have with your audience…All relationships are based on trust.”

Be truthful with your reader. One of the earliest lessons I learned about good writing is never to underestimate your reader. No matter how “unrefined” you may think the average reader is, they will pick up on more than you would sometimes care to imagine. In short, their BS radar is a highly effective, well-weaponized piece of mental ironmongery.

“[T]he storyteller knows that they, the storyteller, aren’t the point of the discourse; the point of the discourse is the idea — which is larger than the storyteller and which never ends.”

I suppose this would best be summarized as follows: show don’t tell. Or perhaps simply, Lose the ego, yo; nobody cares about how cool your mullet is or how many degrees you’ve earned online from Einstein U.

This approach would then be furthered by what every writing teacher and art instructor tells their pupils: Do what it is you’re passionate about, and let that passion flow through your work. When it’s not blood, sweat, tears, hope, remorse, love, hate, loss, bliss, failure, aspirations, etc. coming through the bottom line, the reader won’t make it to the end of the line you’re writing.

“[T]he liar is lying because they fear a negative response to the truth. They’re afraid that if they tell somebody the truth, that somebody will no longer like them, or love them, or trust them, or whatever it is the liar fears most. They care about themselves, not their audience.”

Given a slight twist: Don’t try and create human nature through your words, emulate and reflect it. If nature is the vast canvas on which all life takes place, then your challenge is to hold your very own mirror up to it so that others can see the image just as well, if not better, than you do.

Like I said in the beginning, Mr. Bryant is ostensibly talking about the brand/content relationship in his writing, so I’ll leave it off here today with one of my favourite lines he penned about perfidy and the deliberate breach of trust:

“[R]eject all kinds of stupid perfidy, from the deplorable (“eco-conscious” gasoline companies), to the inane (unlabeled-but-paid-for lifestyle porn on Instagram), to the wildly unhealthy (stop posting for the likes, friend — you’re killing yourself).”

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Things Fall Apart

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Entropy. There. I said. Are you happy? I called out the entropy in the room.

As everyone knows, entropy is a thermodynamic quantity that changes in a reversible process by an amount equal to the heat absorbed or emitted divided by the thermodynamic temperature.

Or, according to Daniel Dávila, entropy can be seen as “the universe’s pesky proclivity for disorder, ensur[ing] that things fall apart.”

Going to bat for her husband, April Dávila wrote a guest post for Daniel about said husband’s blog, specifically about one of his earliest posts, “If we’re all entropy’s bitches, why bother?” That is a fair and good question, Mr. Dávila.

The premise behind the answer is the following: “Story may not be the only way to deal with the ultimate demise of everything, but it’s one of the best. We can’t stop time, but, with story, we can find our place in it.”

I encourage you to read the entire piece about Entropy’s Bitches (this should be a band name), as Mr. Dávila does an interesting job of eventually getting to why storytelling – but really he means writing – is the greatest, most important, without equal among the arts & sciences, humane to the point of being human, job/responsibility in the world.

Which got me thinking about a book I read years ago for my book club called Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. While performing extensive research upon completing this theory on the evolution of monogamy in humans and human mating systems (get your mind out of the gutter), I came across a fascinating anthropological piece that examined the most important things necessary for human survival.

Not surprisingly, food and water are most critical for our survival. According to one site, we can go about three or four days without water, and about three weeks without food. But this is where the study got interesting. What’s the next most important element for human survival? they asked. Many people might say shelter, and while it’s always nice to have a roof over your head, these anthropologists argued that it was storytelling which came next.

There will never be a way to prove this one way or the other, but deep down I think they’re right. Mankind survived on the savanna for millennia upon millennia without much of anything. And while the invention of weapons backs up the above theory (we need food!), the invention of language, first spoken and then written, lends credence to the “Storytelling Is No. 3” theory.

The why? of this is precisely that which Daniel Dávila gets to in his post, and concludes with a big bang, writing:

“So, the next time you are face to face with the blank page, ask yourself this: What part of my mind, common across culture and history, will help the reader understand her place in impermanence? Or, to put it another way: What experience can I relate that illustrates to the other monkeys that my tree, for now at least, is a safe place to wait out the long night ahead?”

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