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If the story is good, the facts don’t matter

Jason Cohen makes a compelling point that if the story is good, the facts (kind of) don’t really matter (that much). He does this by looking at Malcom Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point (yeah, his blog post is from 2008, so it wasn’t outdated then).

He quotes Duncan Watts, who has debunked many of Gladwell’s claims:

“It sort of sounds cool,” Watts says, tucking into his salad. “But it’s wonderfully persuasive only for as long as you don’t think about it.”

Well, at least as long as you don’t think about it deeply and double-check.

We want to be fascinated. We want to be entertained. We want to have Eureka! moments. And if a good story gives us all of that, hey, don’t start splitting hairs please, you annoying fact-checker dude wearing your booooring logical reasoning hat.

Now this shouldn’t mean that you should come up with stories to distort the truth.

Instead, it means that you should use stories to convey the truth in the best way possible.

If you’re a bakery, don’t tell me you’ve got the most delicious, yummy cakes. Don’t even just tell me why they are delicious, or just about the wholesome ingredients you use, and what makes it superior to the new breed of cakes that uses all kinds of chemical shortcuts to look like a really awesome cake and taste like crap. Instead, tell me stories that convey these features and benefits, so I don’t just know about them, but I actually feel glad to know them!


If you had a chance to learn about the art of storytelling from Emmy-award-winning filmmakers, would you take the time to do so?

This is not a hypothetical question.

Storytelling The Stillmotion Way: Part 1 from stillmotion on Vimeo.

Since you’re interested in the power of stories, my bet is you’re going to love this post.

Even though it’s mainly storytelling for filmmakers, there are lessons for storytelling in any medium included in this video.

So here’s some questions which will be answered in part one of this series:

  • What are the fundamental building blocks of any story?
    (The 4 P’s: People, Places, Plot & Purpose)
  • People: Who is in the story?
  • Place: Where does the story take place?
  • Plot: What is the conflict and the journey?
    • have a conflict in every story you tell  (even if it’s just a car commercial!)
    • you want to have some form of conflict or tension (it doesn’t need to be a villain that causes the conflict)
    • constantly generate questions that will keep your audience intrigued
  • Purpose: Why should anyone care about this?
    • be able to state your purpose in one clear, succinct sentence (before you even pick up a camera, you should be able to do that)

Was this an insightful video on storytelling for you?


6 Quick Story Exercises

Gretchen Rubin shared 6 Quick Story Exercises to Spark Your Creativity. Here’s the gist of it:

  1. Funny _____Pick a drama, thriller, or horror film and turn it into a comedy.
  2. Serious _____Likewise, pick a comedy and make it into a drama. SeriousAnimal House – Drama about cheating scandal at a small university ends in A Few Good Men-like showdown.
  3. FBI out of water.This works for comedy or drama. Name five places that a FBI agent in the movies has never been sent to solve a crime. Example: Slob FI agent is sent undercover to a Provence Cooking School.
  4. _____ SchoolWorks for both drama and comedy. Name five examples of an unusual type of school, camp, or classroom. Example: “Wife School.”
  5. Versus!Drama or comedy. Name several pairs of people to be on opposite sides of a burning issue.
  6. My ______ Is a Serial KillerDrama or comedy. Name an unusual person, animal, or thing that a paranoid can suspect of being a murderer.

These exercises are originally taken from Blake Snyder’s book Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need.


Storytelling Lessons From Andrew Stanton

There are few people who made storytelling in such a successful career like Andrew Stanton – the man behind many of Pixar’s most successful animation movies.


Brothers Grimm Illustrated Fairy Tales

The fairy tales of the Grimm Brothers are some of recent histories most powerful and captivating stories – and I still enjoy reading one every once in a while. That’s why I’m really excited about this book:

You can preview some of the illustrations on the Amazon page, and it’s just wonderfully done – yes, they are vintage illustrations, but I find they really pull you into the story and bring you back into that wonder and amazement which stories could create in your childhood days.


Apple already did it, but now Samsung too uses storytelling to promote their newest and fanciest smartphone. In this YouTube video, you get the story behind the design of the Samsung Galaxy SIII.

There’s a couple of things to say about this.

First of all, it’s brilliant marketing, because it even speaks to people who don’t want to hear about technical features or pixel resolution or processing details.

It’s a story about a bunch of highly talented and passionate people who work on one of the most successful products that will be released to market.

And even though the designers talk about technical things – new manufacturing processes, materials used and so on – it doesn’t sound like that. It’s emotional. He talks about the flow of water, the shimmer of pebbles in a stream on a sunny day, about gracefulness.

They talk about technology that works so well that you don’t even notice it – technology that’s so intuitive you don’t have to adapt to it, where interaction is emotionally engaging at first contact – just like with a human being.

They talk about natural sound design, so that when you use your phone it sounds like a stroll in the forest. The sound designers don’t just sit in front of computers, they used water, they used milk, juice and yogurt to create the perfect sound. You learn that the final sound of the dialer was the sound of orange juice dropping into a small cup – how fascinating is that? Think about it – you wouldn’t expect orange juice sounding different from water or apple juice, but the sound designers who created the auditory interface for the SIII explored it so deeply that they found out orange juice creates the ideal sound.

The swiping motion you make to unlock your phone? They designed the phone so it reminds you of the feeling of running your hands through soft grass, or dipping your feet into a stream of clear water, or the cool breeze of a bicycle ride..

Do you see all these meaningful mental pictures they are painting? All these fundamental and universal human experiences? All of the sudden, it’s not about the phone anymore. It’s not about functions. It’s about you, it’s about a part of your life and how it can be better than it currently is. They’re not trying to sell, but they are inspiring you to buy with this brilliantly created – let’s face it – advertisement.


The Future of Storytelling

What’s the future of storytelling going to be like? It’s surely going to make use of new technologies and stories will be told over multiple platforms – not just TV screens, not just computers, not just tablets, not just radios, not just MP3 players, not just smartphones, not just ___ [insert flashy new device name].

More complexity is being added to storytelling.

In one sentence:

audiences are looking for a blurring of barriers between content and reality in a layered yet cohesive execution

That’s the summary of a study by the research consultancy Latitude.

As KC Ifeanyi recently put it, these are the main factors that will shape the future of storytelling:

Immersion: Delving deeper into the story through supplementary context and sensory experiences.

Interactivity: Allowing consumers to become part of the narrative and possibly influence its outcome.

Integration: Having a seamless connection among all platforms being used and going beyond just replicating content on different devices.

Impact: Inspiring consumers to take action of some kind, e.g. purchase a product, sign up for a service, support a cause, etc.

Other findings from the study:

“Transmedia is more than media shifting:” 82% wanted complementary, not duplicating, mobile apps for their TV watching experience.

“The real world is a platform:” 52% consider the real world as another platform in which 3-D technology, augmented reality, and the like are expected to link the digital and physical.

Control: 79% expressed the desire to become part of a story, interacting with its main characters.

You can access the full study online (for free) here: What Audiences Want: Study Uncovers Possible Futures for Storytelling


Branding With Storytelling

Jon Thomas makes a compelling point in his article 7 Reasons Storytelling Is Important For Branded Content.

Especially today, when it comes to advertising or branding, most people think: online! social media! web! TV! radio! print! neuromarketing!

But there’s something missing in the mix: storytelling.

Yes, it’s thousands of years old, but it’s still just as important for effective branding. If not more. If you think about it – all of the “hot terms” people talk about when they talk about branding are essentially “carriers” of good storytelling.

His 7 reasons for storytelling in branding:

  1. Stories produce experience.
  2. Stories reveal what makes your message unique.
  3. Stories are emotional glue that connects you to your customers.
  4. Stories shape information into meaning.
  5. Stories can motivate an audience toward your goal.
  6. Stories are more likely to be shared.
  7. Stories are less likely to be resisted.

Gary Vaynerchuck recently talked at #SoMix2012, and there’s something that is central to everything he said and about how business is done, although he kind of sneaked it in there. But of course, when he slips a comment about the power of stories, we’re not missing it 😉

Gary Vaynerchuck:

Here’s the secret that I barely like to talk about because I want to keep it to myself.

It’s all supply and demand, and it’s storytelling from the proper platform.

Here’s the whole talk:


And then later he said (around 1:01:00)

We are all only in the storytelling business. The story we tell to the customer is everything.

Gary is smart as hell when it comes to running a business. Listen to him 😉