The art of storytelling
“Stories “are important cognitive events, for they encapsulate, into one compact package, information, knowledge, context and emotion.”
A Whole New Mind
Last night, I participated in a Moth StorySLAM. The Moth is an acclaimed not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling*. StorySLAMs occur all over the country. People gather to hear people share their true stories tying in with a theme. The Moth provides clear rules and guidelines to keep the stories focused and concise. No story should be over 5 min. They recommend practice reciting your story. There are no benefits of anything written. It’s completely your internal going external.Great stories are engaging, memorable, and authentic. A good story is clear and relates regardless of origin.
I enjoyed the restrictions that The Moth puts in place for the storytellers. It’s a quick way to keep the story focused and prevents meandering thoughts. Every word spoken is heard. Every pause has an impact. When defining a story, give it hard boundaries. Create a unified narrative. Aristotle talks about “unification” in Poetics. “In it, Aristotle says that a good story is unified and focuses on an extended action with a beginning, middle and end.” I learned a good story has flow and has a clear point to make. Without this structure, I might as well just list facts or stats about my life. Nearly, not as compelling or entertaining.
Where today’s social media merely brushes on the surface of this engagement. Storytelling is the deep dive into what makes people individuals. Think of the last good story you’ve heard and then try to think of the last few tweets, Facebook post or Snap Chat. Which tends to stick with you longer than just a day, a month, years?
The success of The Moth is that we are looking for diverse experiences to broaden our own understanding of humanity, the human experience. In these stories, we find glimpses of moments in others’ live that we can all share collectively.
As a visual designer at Microsoft, I want to inject the art of storytelling into my work and the products we create. But, how do we corporately create a relationship not to just customers, but to people in a meaningful way? Companies tend to focus more on the technological advancements and features and less on filling a need or relating to people.
As you’ve pointed out I’ve helped with more computers in more schools than anybody else in the world and I’m absolutely convinced that is by no means the most important thing. The most important thing is a person. A person who incites and feeds your curiosity; and machines cannot do that in the same way that people can.
Smithsonian Institution Oral and Video Histories, April 20, 1995