July 26, 2010
THE WAY OF THE WRITER: Dramatic Storytelling
Dramatic storytelling comes from choices, not circumstances.
Ask yourself, which is more satisfying to watch or read: a movie with lots of cool action and events and special effects, or a movie where a character faces internal struggles while dealing with lots of cool action and events and special effects?
The best stories are about an interesting, relatable character learning about themselves and becoming a better person in the midst of, and sometimes because of, extraordinary circumstances. Or, sometimes, in inverse: choosing NOT to become a better person in spite of learning about themselves in the midst of extraordinary circumstances -- which isn't as satisfying, but still strikes an emotional resonance. But the best stories are about a character making choices and learning to make better choices, which will help them overcome those great odds to bring the story to its satisfying conclusion.
And I'm convinced we're attracted to these kind of stories because that's the way life works. I think because, at our core level, we know that life is not about random events. Rather, we know that life is about the choices we make. Life is about those times we choose good over evil . . . or evil over good . . . it's about those times we choose to reason and learn instead of being told what to think . . . it's about the times we choose to help someone rather than hurt them . . . it's about the times we choose to sacrifice. I believe that those are the things that we are attracted to in stories because those are the things that make life worth living.
Samurai art by Tim Baron, (c) 2009