Is anyone else a little annoyed?
You hear it everywhere these days.

“Story is King.” 
“Storytelling is the key.” 
“Storytelling is my passion.” 
“I’m a born storyteller.” 
Hundreds of books have been written about the power of storytelling.  
Every young and ambitious marketeer has read the three latest blogs about how storytelling will transform their pitch decks, marketing campaigns, and sales cycles. 
Every dude with a camera and a subscription to the Adobe Creative Suite won’t shut up about how they’ve fallen in love with storytelling and are passionate about telling your story.

They say if you can just harness the power of story, all your problems will go away. Your product will fly off the shelves like hot cakes. People will slam your nonprofit inbox with donations and support. Public health and voter participation will skyrocket because governments know exactly how to motivate people to act. 

But I’m not sure I believe it. How can there be this many people obsessed with such a basic function of human nature, like it’s some kind of newly discovered trend? I don’t buy it. 
In many ways, Story has been sold to us just like anything else. In today’s commercial environment, alongside a myriad of tech startups vying for VC money, it’s another solution looking for a problem. And it’s not always the answer. 
Story story story. Sounds weird the more you say it. 
And not only that. It slowly starts to die.  

STORY has become another buzzword. Mass Markets: where words go to die, to lose their meaning, to have the life sucked out of them. STORY has been commercialized, marketized, turned into formulas, surgically dismantled, and misapplied to the point where it can pretty much mean anything to anybody. And it’s not just the word. Hollywood keeps making the same movies one after another. AI is making up a thousand stories every minute. And to top it all off, writers literally stopped writing stories for half a year, and now the world is starving. 
And all the while, executives keep monetizing storytelling, selling books, toolkits, and masterclasses to make you feel like a visionary of narrative. Except you’re not, are you? I’m not either. No one is visionary of narrative, because that’s fake, and it doesn’t mean anything. 
That’s right. Story is Dead. We’ve been killing it for years, and we’ve finally succeeded. 
And if story is dead, then we’re next. Because as much as you hear it said, the core message is true: storytelling is at the core of human life. It shapes our memories and views about the world. It informs even our biggest decisions. Something is fundamentally broken about the way we communicate in narrative.

 But we need “story” to mean something. And it makes me mad that for so long, it hasn’t! We’ve been sold a watered-down version of storytelling.  
But it’s not all untrue, just incomplete. 

And don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to offer an alternative. I’m just another guy with a website and something to sell (video production services, if you’re interested).
I’m here to remind you that you have a billion problems to solve in your life, with your business, with your passion. Where you invest is important. Good storytelling might help take you an extra step. But if you understand your passion well enough, you shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get people to understand it.

In fact, great storytellers rarely talk about storytelling at all. They don’t have to. They’re too busy capturing your attention with something important.

As an artist, business owner, and writer, I ask myself: if story is dead, what should I do? And my answer, at least, for now, is twofold: 

1. I should focus on the core value of my passion (my business, art, and writing) to the world. The actual thing I have to say – focus on making that as real, true, and beautiful as possible. 
2. I should understand the different kinds of storytelling and when to use them for impact. 

The first point is as hard as it is easy. Waking up everyday and offering something to the world is hard. If you’re going to make the effort at all, make sure that thing makes sense. 
You should know your passion so well that it’s easy to explain to someone who doesn’t know anything about it. 
If you can drill home the point of your passion without relying on fancy storytelling techniques, that’s when you know you’ve got something unique, useful, and beautiful. That’s when it’s ready for the extra power of story. If you start before then, you’ll be putting lipstick on a pig. 
The second point can vary widely. We’re in Huxley’s Brave New World, or very close to it. The sheer volume of storytelling happening around us each day (yes even those who don’t have a smartphone) is massive. 

In the constant flood, it can be hard to pick out what types of storytelling are appropriate for your passion. I like to break down storytelling based on intent. As a creator, it helps me identify my goals so that I can pick the best tools and storytelling strategies for the job. And as a consumer, it’s important for me to understand why something I’m reading, watching, or listening to something in the first place. 

As far as I can tell, most storytelling present in the modern media landscape falls into one of three groups:
•    Art – intended to entertain and provoke
•    Documentary & Journalism – intended to educate and inform
•    Marketing – intended to influence & manipulate
Once you know where to start, then you can get fancy with the techniques. I won’t go into them here because I haven’t finished reading about them all yet. But I will recommend some links I’ve found compelling. 

Simplicity and Access
One last tip, though, for anyone looking for a place to start. Simplicity is your key to accessibility. If you’re looking for a way to communicate an important message to a wide audience, then you have to make it simple enough that there is minimal context required to understand what you’re saying. 

You know this intuitively. The box office relies on carbon copy formulas. And we complain about it all the time. Since I was born, I think. But it’s not hard to understand why. Experimental indie films pushing the boundaries of storytelling don’t get the audience they deserve. But once the audience gets big enough, big companies bring the formulas in and we’re back to square one. The formulas make money because they attract people. They are accessible. 

And this is where we must discuss something important about mass media and mass adoption. Something I often hate as an artist, but appreciate in a different way:
Stories that are nuanced, specific, and complex are usually not easily understood and appreciated by the masses. 

The Barbie movie is a great recent example. It’s not the most nuanced and clever depiction of modern feminism. It’s not particularly original nor is it very complex in metaphor. But, in its simplicity and literalism, it makes it easy to understand the challenges that modern women face. Those less familiar with discrimination against women don’t have to dig through rhetoric for answers. This is important for most people who don’t have time to go around reading feminist theory at an academic level.

The Barbie Movie’s ability to spark conversations and empathy in an average household or friend group vastly outweighs the ability of niche (brilliant) authors who you only learn about in school.

We need collective stories that large groups of people can relate to. We ALSO NEED experimental, artistic, complex expressions of human problems that require us to peek under the hood. 

As someone with a story to tell, your best approach is to fight with both weapons. The early Christians did this well. Paul told the church of Corinth that while he teaches advanced wisdom to those who are mature, he “fed milk” to new believers. 
And so, as Paul so simply teaches us, start with simplicity.  
So. Story is dead. Is there any reviving it? Who knows. Be the expert of your own story, and it just might come to life in time for you to find out. 

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