Surprise! Stories are Vital

I went to Beatrix Potter’s house ‘Hill Top’ in the tiny village of Hawkshead in the Lake District last week. She incorporated lots of real-world objects such as walls and gates (and the pub) from the village into her illustrations in the books I’d read as a child. Books which had some great characters in wonderfully simple stories. Apparently on writing she said: “The shorter and the plainer the better.” Sounds about right to me!

We saw the holes that Samuel Whiskers – a real rat who lived in the house – used to navigate to the kitchen, and even the section of floorboard that had to be removed when Tom Kitten got stuck in there (consider my mind BLOWN). She was evidently very shrewd, investing her profits from the Peter Rabbit book to buy the house itself, and then investing further royalties into buying farms in the area to be enjoyed by the National Trust.

A few days ago we watched ‘Hugo’ again. What a beautiful film, directed by Martin Scorsese and dedicated to the first silent movies. The story pulls back layers for a series of lovely surprises. Inspiring and throughly recommended. Sacha Baron-Cohen’s character’s development is very sweet.

‘Stranger Things’ on Netflix is remarkable and well worth a watch. Scary, compelling and always surprising. The ‘Get Down’ (also on Netflix) is a romanticized hip hop genesis story – consider my buttons pushed.

The point is, I’m more excited about stories than I’ve ever been. They are the key to the best communication because the human brain has evolved into a story-hungry beast – we can devour good stories indefinitely.

Danger!

When Alec Guinness first read the script for Star Wars, he thought the dialogue was pretty ropey, but I had to go on turning the page.” This was someone who really knew about dialogue, but ALSO about story. Surprises and intrigue are key! So here’s the clever bit – put some stories and surprises into all your communication. Anything goes. Try it. It doesn’t have to be deliberately provocative – just try making them smile, or simply inspiring some serious thought (both is good).

 

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