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Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Importance of Storytelling

"Fiction is just as vital. What do we humans do on weekends? We go to movies, we read, we watch television, we play video games—all of which require WRITERS. Humans require entertainment to remain sane. Stories instruct, inspire, and fuel our hope and imagination. Without that we die, or go crazy, or go crazy then die. We risk losing our humanity. The writer’s contribution is more than valuable, it preserves and grows the human condition. Tyrants burn the books first for a reason." (quoted from http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/ July 23 entry)

I love the thought expressed in this paragraph. I've been frustrated over this very issue for the last several years. It seems Hollywood has forgotten that movies are more than special effects and beautiful people, movies are, at their heart, STORIES. The last few movies I've seen were major disappointments, not because they lacked visual appeal or acting abilities, but because they left the story behind. If they have a coherent story at all, it is usually so riddled with plot holes it becomes ridiculously unbelievable. And yet, they make millions. Have we become so inured to lame stories on TV and at the theater that we no longer demand decent storytelling? Have we forgotten what real stories are?

Novels fare a bit better, but most of the bestsellers have mediocre writing and poorly constructed plots. But even a poorly written story is better than none at all, right? Maybe not. Good books exist, but it requires a lot of digging to find one. The end result is worth it. When storytelling happens, magic follows. Good storytelling captivates the imagination and frees it to soar. Poor storytelling is a thin shadow in comparison.

I work at a center that runs high-tech starship simulators (www.spacecamputah.org). What we do is essentially interactive storytelling. Most of our staff are teens. Most of them have only a rudimentary grasp of storytelling. Few of them are even aware that they are storytellers. The potential they hold in their hands as they create the stories is awe-inspiring. Few of them ever reach that potential, but when they do, they unleash a storm of creativity in themselves and the crew of their ship that is beautiful beyond words.

Storytelling is an art, one that can be learned. Back to the quote at the beginning, bad storytelling is better than none at all. Good storytelling is transcendent. The keenest disappointment is felt for the story that could have been superlative but because of lack of skill or laziness, falls far short, landing somewhere south of mediocrity.