Every day, we generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. Numbers, words, statistics, snapshots… But without a story to infuse the data with meaning, it’s all babble. Stories teach us how to live, when to act, why to stand up, who to turn to and where to go. In the hands of a master storyteller, they identify the significant, warn us of troubles, predict the future and recall the past. In the Information Age, story matters more than ever.
Here’s the story, morning glory
All great writing tells a story. Without story, words are powerless to provoke. Sentences struggle to transform intent into action. This is true in every genre — from interoffice email to literary fiction, persuasive editorials in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal to YouTube video tutorials. If you want to move people, persuade them, convince them of your truth, you’ll have to give them a story that shows them how they might change and more importantly, what to expect when they do.
Stories work their motivational magic, the writer Stephen Pressfield has argued in Stories are About Change, because they offer us scripts to follow in times of uncertainty.
“We need stories to temper our anxieties, either as supporting messages to stay as we are or inspiring road maps to get us to take a chance. Experiencing stories that tell the tale of protagonists for whom we can empathize gives us the courage to examine our own lives and change them.”
I’ve been creating stories of all kinds for three decades — as a fiction writer, editor, journalist, content marketer, columnist, speech writer and academic. Each of these forms have their own conventions, vocabularies and purposes.
But I’m no jack-of-all-trades writer. I do have a speciality.
When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m The Storyjack.