A fool speaks because he must say something and a wise man speaks because he has something to say. – Old Saying
I believe there is one primary reason human beings tell stories: To teach.
Consider this: There is no culture on the globe that does not have stories. We all have music and we all have stories. They are part of us. I have read about aboriginal tribes in Australia who use songs and stories in case they get lost. These songs contain information like a map. So if you know the words to a particular song, you can, for instance, find water in an unfamiliar area because you know the song for that area. Our brains seem to retain information this way. Besides saving lives, stories can also tell us how we should live.
In Bruno Bettelheim’s book, The Uses of Enchantment, he tells of the traditional Hindi medical practice of giving the patient a story to contemplate. Through this story the patient would learn from the hero’s failures and victories how to deal with and resolve his/her own problem.
This may sound like a foreign concept, but we use this even today in Western culture in the form of Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs where people share their stories in order to help themselves and others. This simple act of sharing stories helps the healing process. People learn that they are not alone in their struggle and that others have been through these addictions and survived. They may also learn things to watch out for in their own behavior to avoid falling back into old destructive patterns. Stories teach us how to live. Your story should teach me how to live.
Friday, July 22, 2005
"There is no art which does not conceal a still greater art." – Percival Wilde
Often when I listen to how people evaluate stories, I hear them talk about dialogue. When they talk about “the script” for a film they are often talking about the dialogue. Or when they mention how well a book is written, they most often mean they way the words are put together—the beauty of a sentence.
When people speak of Shakespeare’s work they almost always talk about the beauty of the language.
These are all forms of “visible ink.” This term refers to writing that is readily “seen” by the reader or viewer. They often mistake these words on the page as the only writing that the storyteller is doing.
But how events in a story are ordered is also writing. What events should occur in a story to make the teller’s point is also writing. Why a character behaves in a particular way is also writing.
These are all forms of “invisible ink,” so called because it is not easily spotted by a reader, viewer, or listener of a story. Invisible ink does, however, have a profound impact on a story. More to the point, they are the story itself. Invisible ink is the writing below the surface of the words. Most people will never see, or notice it, but they will feel it. If you learn to use it, your work will feel polished, professional, and it will have a profound impact on your audience.