“Don’t give them 4, give them 2+2” – Andrew Stanton, Pixar (2012)
Humans have been telling stories since the beginning of time, from the campfires of the stone age right through to the modern music hall. They are an essential, and very natural, part of our lives. They transmit values, teach lessons and help us to relate to one another.
Think about your own life, the majority of your memories, knowledge and thinking is probably organised as stories. They have the capacity to define experiences and change the way people think, feel or act.
They can define or redefine issues by offering compelling arguments, new and exciting perspectives and engaging narratives – making smaller stories into bigger stories, your biography.
Stories are made for sharing, on their own they’re just thoughts – they need to be bounced around, tested and made into a reality. The final article becomes more authentic and engaging. Some stories will never end, those about the human condition, like love stories are constantly being reinvented.
The key to a good story is to know your audience – will they understand what you’re saying or do you need to tailor some of the language to paint the desired picture in their minds? You need to get this right because stories have a powerful educational and entertainment potential. They also help to create or maintain a particular culture within your family, friends, workplace and even your country.
This is because meaning cannot be created in isolation, only within and between groups of people. Therefore stories provide a focus for societies by highlighting (or sharing) particular thoughts, feelings, relationships, connections and aspirations.
As human being we crave context and this requires the constant negotiation and renegotiation of truth. We can see this in the way that our expectations, laws and societies have changed over time to reflect what is and isn’t acceptable.
Stories are a powerful and dynamic force, justifying the status quo or acting as a catalyst for change. The best and most enduring stories are those that are easily understood, democratic, positive and evolving.
The most important story affecting our lives has to be the political process – how does society want to organise and share power – so there is an obvious and urgent challenge here to make politics into a national dialogue, a story that everyone feels a part of and is able to influence. The same is true at every level of society.
What’s your story? What would you like to change and what’s the best way for you to involve other people?