Harnessing our love for stories about real people 

 

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It’s not a new phenomenon, humans have been sharing stories throughout the ages and storytelling is part of us being social animals. It’s how we can share our experiences or ideas. After all, we love stories about people, not so much facts and figures.

A great story will not only get our attention but trigger emotions and it could even be something we later share or discuss with others. Just as we know that story telling is a way to record history, pass on wisdom or simply entertain, it can also build connections between people or spark conversations that may not otherwise have taken place.

The Netflix series, Thirteen Reasons Why sparked many conversations, not to mention debate around the often avoided issue of youth suicide in homes, schools and in the media. Already we’re seeing similar discussions taking place as viewers of the Netflix film, To the Bone begin to share their responses and converse about eating disorders.  

Knowing someone else has seen or heard the same story provides a common link and gives us something to talk about. We can probe their take on the situation while we develop our own thinking. For example, Teen Mom portrayed the reality of teenage pregnancy, which prompted discussion amongst young people about the obstacles faced by young parents. Despite receiving criticism, the show was credited with reducing teenage pregnancies

While a small number of people are naturally good storytellers, for most it’s a learned and perfected art that needs conscious consideration. Living in a story saturated world, we have the luxury of selection and so many are rejected. It’s therefore important to ask if your story would make the cut. Too often companies put themselves at the centre of the narrative when it’s the real people who need to be at the heart of that story.

The success enjoyed by reality television stars, who usually have no particular ability, other than to project a persona that appeals to their audiences, is the ultimate evidence of our love of a good story about other people, and the more “real” the better. Kicking off in the UK, who’d have thought that Gogglebox, a show where you watch people watch TV, would be a rating success? Did you?

While modelling ourselves on reality TV stars isn’t necessarily a good idea, understanding that entertainment is part of good storytelling is something we can all benefit from if we want it to be read.



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