July 22, 2022

The Simple Essence of Great Storytelling

There’s something that just fascinates me about compelling stories.

And the more I dissect my favourite ones, the closer I get to the essence of their magic.

When we’re lost in a movie, we forget about our difficult day at work and instead, let our emotions be driven by the storyteller. The story becomes real, if only for the duration that it’s being told.

When Nike advertises a shoe, we relate to the transformation of the shoe-wearer. We want that for ourselves, and suddenly they’ve made us, the viewer, the hero of the story. Through a screen, halfway across the world, they can influence many minds to conjure a personalised story about themselves with their product. Is that anything less than sorcery?

Here’s the simple essence of storytelling (although its finer components are brittle and not so easy to perfect):

Stories involve some sort of character transformation.

This transformation usually occurs through action and motion which keeps us engaged and elicits relatable emotions in characters of interest.

These emotions reach us, the viewer, and we empathise with them. The more we’re made to feel precisely what the characters are feeling, the easier it is for the storyteller to then take us on their journey.

Even if a movie was made solely about aliens, it would be told in a way that we could relate to it through the lens of ‘human’ experience.

We believe in a character’s emotions because we too have experienced them in some way or form. This makes us feel genuine emotions which to us, makes the story real.

That’s the magic of storytelling. You’ll hate the villain, despite loving the actor behind them in real life. You’ll cheer on the protagonist, despite knowing that the movie’s fictional. You might even shed a little tear whilst getting lost in it all, and your friends won’t let you forget it.

Storytelling is simply getting humans to believe and experience other human experiences.

Every week, I write about philosophy, self-fulfilment and creativity.
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