THE FALLACY OF A MASTERPIECE SUPERHERO STORYTELLING
A few years ago, I was invited to give my feedback in my role as a consultant to a renowned celebrity who was looking to release an autobiography. I recommended some edits upon reading the first version from the point of view to seize media affinity — which can drive more engagement and eventually attain the most critical — earn more media stories, especially from top-notch publications.
I took a long pause and said, “…but it looks really privileged, media won’t bite into this. This seems to be a little less inspiring.” Exasperated and perplexed, my client quickly reacted, “Why would you say that?” I replied, “Because the classic narration of setting up the trigger, showing the hardship, struggle, failure, and the rise of a phoenix-like emotion is somewhere missing.”
My client was not convinced here, “But Bhaskar, this is really not a rags to riches story after all.”
“What’s more important, being authentic or being inspiring?”
This time, I was dumbfounded. The conversation went for over five hours, and we debated various possible iterations to the version. I didn’t change my opinion in its entirety. I suggested the version to be more emotional, thought-provoking and prescribed more rigour to the plot development.
I couldn’t discount my learnings on how media would view and review this piece that is not secured with either an emotive or a provocative appeal.
CAN ALL STORIES BE THE SAME?
Still, something remained with me after the lengthy meeting, probably a question. I mean, not everyone had a single parent, an alcoholic dad, abused sexually or physically, or bullied or faced the unbearable weight of challenges. It is perfectly plausible that someone had more than $50 to start in a new city and had the financial and emotional support of loved ones throughout. Despite this, the struggle could still be real, intimidating, and overwhelming.
Nevertheless, all success stories predominately follow a carefully developed route of never-ending troughs which the protagonist confronts and emerges victorious despite every obstacle. He is the David to Goliath.
These stories of transformation and triumph are hardwired in such a manner that an ordinary backdrop setting appears plain boring and in fact, at times insignificant.
TRUTHS. STORIES. CONSTRUCTS.
But we always tend to forget that stories are a construct, narratives well furnished. A good presentation of a self-evident truth. It is when we, as storytellers, knowingly and willfully, overlook the importance of clarity and sobriety, we end up fostering an over-emotional construct. This construct is influencing our minds, societies, and the world.
Storytelling has always been a preeminent form of communication, and the modern world understands its power. Today, everybody is encouraged to narrate their stories, and everybody is encouraged to be “the hero of their own story.” Social media tools are a great equalizer that allows everybody to share their stories of struggle and success. As a result, we’re in danger of making too many of them.
With this. we’re running a risk of losing a sense of our objective reality. Our threshold to establishing an emotional connection has shot up at an all-time high, and we’re finding it hard than ever to find those stories that actually move us.
Our minds are under siege with stories all around.
REIN IN THE RISE OF STORIES
Therefore, we need a shift — from epic storytelling to storytelling that problem-solves.
We need stories that make sense in our lives, create structure in our chaotic world, become a part of our plan, do the work of building a sound supposition for an argument for us, and propel our quest. Do more for us than just tell stories that undermine regular hard work.
Therefore, here’s a quick checklist for your stories, before you decide to share them with the world. Ask yourself,
Is it authentic? To yourself
Is it authentic? To your audience
Is it authentic? To your higher self
Our stories can be greater than anyone else even if it doesn’t fetch enough value from institutions or individuals alike, but we need to put enough time and effort to discuss, debate, and open our minds. All this is really quite simple.