Things I’m Learning About Stories

If I’m going to keep up blogging once a week, I need to change things up. It usually takes me about two hours to write and publish a post. That’s too slow. So this is going to be a highlight reel of recent things I’m learning, specifically about storytelling.

Be open to anything. 

Fear kills creativity. Too many times I shy away from an idea because I don’t fully understand it or how to execute it. I have too many questions. Will it be interesting? Will people like it? Hate it? Will this be a giant waste of time?

These fear-based questions that prevent me from being truly creative and bold with my stories. Or worse, they prevent me from telling a story entirely.

Pace your edit. 

Rushedstoriesarentgoodstories. Youredeliveringanexperiencenotjustinformation.

Editing is important, but there’s a difference between editing and ripping the soul out of your movie. Sometimes a five second establishing wide shot isn’t enough to bring your audience into the scene.

Take one of my favorite scenes of all time, the argument between Bob and Helen in the Incredibles:

It takes a full twenty-two seconds for Bob to enter the house and start fighting with his wife. It’s not just him walking around either. That’d be boring. He sees a piece of cake, is enticed, then eats it. Okay, maybe that does sound boring in writing. So why is it there and why is it important?

There’s something about simply being with a character that helps the audience empathize. When writing, it’s important to have both the boring moments along with the intense to create contrast.

Ugh, I feel like explaining this concept further, but this is supposed to be highlights, people. But here’s one last prime example of what I’m talking about.

So here we have a scene with just the antagonist. He’s a murderer. We don’t like him. So why, when the car stops sinking midway, do we feel tension? Shouldn’t we want him to fail?

We were with Norman as he sank the car. We were with him as he tried to hide the evidence. Storytelling can take you to unexpected places and allow you to experience emotions with people with whom you wouldn’t normally associate. And that’s power.

Sorry if this feels more like clip notes and less like an actual blog, but honestly this is mostly for myself as I try to understand narratives better.

Stories are about two things: empathy and danger.

This is pretty straight-forward.

If you don’t care, you won’t be interested. Empathy.

If nothing important is happening, you won’t be interested. Danger.

Yeah. That’s about it.

Josh out.