A Story Well Told


As I prepare to give a Ted X presentation on the Power of Storytelling, I’m amazed at how much we use stories in our lives. Whether we are talking among friends or giving a formal business presentation, stories provide us with a vehicle for communicating complex thoughts and ideas.

What’s more is that through stories, we are able to connect with people in ways that are beyond our imagination. There is something that we all share in common — we are all human. As human beings we share common feelings, emotions, actions, and reactions. A good story taps into these things that make us uniquely human, creating empathy and understanding beyond just words, plots, and storylines.

I remember seeing an interview with Peter Bogdonavich, creator and director of the HBO series, “The Sopranos.” He pointed out that the main character, Tony Soprano, was created to be ultimately unlikeable. The character did nice things once in a while, but it was countered with horrific acts of brutality and rage that could never bring his life into balance.

Bogdonavich stated he did this on purpose. He was playing with the fact that as human beings, we look to relate the stories we see and hear with our own lives. We want to connect with the characters on a deeper level. This is what made the show so powerful and disturbing. No matter how much we wanted Tony Soprano to be a good guy or hero, he was ultimately a troubled gangster — a bad seed. Even though we couldn’t fully connect with the main character, we loved the story anyway, because it was so well told.

If you fast forward to now, you could use the show ‘Breaking Bad” as another powerful example.  Here was a story so well told over the course of many years, that fans anticipated the series finale with viewing parties, TV specials, pre-screenings, and volume purchases of previous seasons.

The message here is that stories represent the most compelling way in which we communicate as human beings. A good story, well told, has the ability to affect all of us in a deeper, more meaningful way.

Now that’s powerful stuff.