What’s the Story, Story?


0 Comments Aug 3, 2012 News

Recently I was talking to a friend about storytelling in video when he stopped me to ask what seemed like a perfectly simple question:

“But what is it about stories?  Why are stories so important?”

It’s one of those obvious questions that aren’t so obvious to answer.  Stories are important because….because…well, they just are, right?

As usual when fumbling to come up with something intelligent to say, I relied on my memory bank for a good quote.  Joan Didion helpfully piped up with: “We tell each other stories in order to live.”  But that still doesn’t answer the question.  It points to the importance of stories without explaining why they are so important.

Storytelling is so ingrained in human culture that it is something we don’t often stop to think about it.  Yet stories are around us all the time – not only in books we read, but in almost every facet of human communication.  Just think about your day, and how many times someone tells you a story, and how many times you yourself are itching to weave a tale from recent events.

“Wait til I tell you about what happened on the bus this morning, you won’t believe it!  Well, this guy got on at 18th Street, and he was wearing a purple wig and he said to the driver…”

With the right timing and delivery, a simple event on a bus can become a hilarious story, told and retold not only by the person who was there, but by anyone who hears it.  The best comedians know this, and rely on everyday stories to make their audiences laugh (think Bill Cosby with stories of his kids, or, more recently, the comedian Aziz Ansari, about buying sheets at Bed Bath and Beyond).

But stories do more than entertain.  Since the first myth told around a fire, stories have helped humans to order their experience, make sense of the world.  Stories create content out of chaos, meaning out of mystery.  A good story can help us feel connected to other people, while at the same time affirming the instrinsic value of our own life.

Advertisers have always known this.   The more they can frame their product in the context of a storyline, the more it sells.   Today, in the swirling chaos of the internet, storytelling has become more essential than ever.   After all, there are only so many random words and images a person can look at before he or she becomes numb, overloaded.  A simple, well-edited story can cut through all of that, catch people’s attention and leave a memorable impression.

It goes without saying that a company naming itself “Story Eyed” is obsessed with storytelling – that’s what we do, in the context of short, documentary-style videos.  But we love to see how other people tell stories as well.  So, over the next few months, we will be interviewing storytellers from various art forms to get to the heart of the story, and find out why and how they use stories in their own writing, directing, painting, or other creative medium.

Besides getting to the core of the original question of why stories are so important, we will also be asking such questions as: What makes a good story?  How do you tell a story only in pictures, no words?  How does editing help a story take shape?   What role does storytelling play in marketing or other aspects of business?   Is it possible to become a better storyteller with practice?  And so on.   In this way, we hope to provide a comprehensive look at storytelling that goes beyond the obvious answer and leads to a richer dialogue for anyone interested in telling stories.  So the next time someone asks you why stories are so important, just bring them to this page and find out!

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