American News Media’s Biggest Fail: They SUCK As Storytellers…

There’s an art to telling a story. It isn’t just knowing how to line up the beginning, middle and end in the right way so the story makes sense…

Anyone who’s ever listened to someone massacre a joke knows what I mean. A joke, after all, is just a story — sketched out in a handful of words. But it works by the same storytelling principle. A set up and a punchline are the beginning, middle & end of a story.

To correctly and successfully tell a joke or a story, you have to know all the pieces of the story — or suspect enough about where they’re going to at least tap dance through the ending. I just finished a book (looking for a publisher now — “How To Live Bullshit Free (and other Showbiz Tales)” — which basically tells my own story; I knew going in what the story was — but, even so, the ending took me by surprise — and I was the guy writing it. Stories can take on a life of their own.

But, in order to go where the story takes you, you have to be fully invested in it. More than that, you have to be the story’s teller — and not the person to whom the story is being told. There’s a huge difference. A huge philosophical difference.

In order to tell you a story, I have to gain your confidence — that is, I have to convince you to suspend your belief if only for a moment. If I tell you that a dog walks into a bar — and you stop me: “Wait — dogs can’t walk into bars!” — then I’ve failed at the start. You haven’t suspended your belief enough to allow the fantastical element at the heart of my story to take wing. But, if instead, you said: “Cool — so, a dog walks into a bar — tell me more!” then I’ve succeeded — at the start. You will let me take you wherever I want — so long as the story stays interesting and doesn’t violate its own rules.

To put a finer point on that — you become the passive listener while I become the active storyteller.

That’s how storytelling works. OUR problem is our Main Stream News Media doesn’t get that. Every time Donald Trump opens his mouth and lies — and the News Media repeats the lie as if it could be true — they stop being storytellers and start being the guy the story was told to instead — who’s simply repeating what he heard. That is not storytelling.

Yes, yes — part of storytelling is listening to others — so you can tell their stories — but storytellers are tasked with finding deeper Truths inside other peoples’ stories — and then telling them. That’s where storytelling ‘art’ kicks in.

It’s not a hard problem to fix. Actually, it’s shockingly easy. All any journalist ever has to do is remind themselves on which side of the storytelling equation they’re supposed to sit. And if they can’t remember themselves, it’s incumbent on US to remind them — as loudly and persistently as we must.

After all — journalists aren’t merely storytellers — they’re the only job mentioned by name in the Constitution. THEIR stories are the last check on power. If they “tell them wrong”, we’re screwed.

What NBC’s Savannah Guthrie did – interviewing young Nick Sandmann — was the exact opposite of storytelling. She became the person to whom Nick Sandmann told his story — as in SHE suspended all belief in order to accept what he said as truth. That she walked away — having allowed a clearly faulty version of the story to stand shouts at us: Nick Sandmann became the styoryteller & an American news outlet became the passive listener to that story.

Fail.

Fail, fail, fail, FAIL.

From one storyteller to another, NBC News – You SUCK at your job. Find other work more suitable to your skills such as they are.

Perhaps Walmart is looking for greeters. Give em a call. Please.


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Sometimes, It’s BEST To ‘Think Like’ A STORYTELLER…

If you want to have a shot at being a successful storyteller, you need to have a better grasp of how people actually tick than most other people.

Storytellers who don’t get human beings right are soon employed doing other things — storytelling being out of their range.

As any reader or audience member can tell you:  The instant a character behaves out-of-character?  The game’s over and the reader or audience member has already turned on you, hating you for wasting their time.

So storyteller HAVE TO get people right or they won’t be storytellers for long.

If you bore in on the PEOPLE in THIS story — who they really are, why they really do the awful things they do — it’s not hard at all to figure out what’s going on here.

Vladimir Putin isn’t a mystery.  He’s a professional spy — a SPY MASTER in fact, a conservative with a religious streak in him a mile wide.  What he WANTS isn’t a mystery either: He wants to restore Greater Russia to a place of ‘prominence’ and power.  Putin also wants more money (cos, apparently, he’s not nearly rich enough).

And Putin wants Russia to be a player.

Donald Trump isn’t a normal president, he’s an abomination.  He’s a liar.  He’s a TRAITOR and a thief.

Donald Trump’s family aren’t normal either.  They’re all corrupt.

Mitch McConnell & Paul Ryan aren’t patriots, they’re POISON.

 

As any storyteller will ‘tell you’ — real human beings almost never do whatever they do ‘just because’ or ‘for no reason’.  They may lie about why — even to themselves — but there is almost always a very real ‘WHY’ — and if you can bore down to that, you will understand virtually EVERYTHING there is TO understand about that character.

The natural progression from understanding how a character REALLY works is to see how they ACT & REACT while being part of a story.  Are they the protagonist or the antagonist?  Is the story theirs or someone else’s?  Or is this a story that will ‘become’ theirs as it gets told?

The process of telling a story is the process of revealing who a person or a group of people really are.  The whole point of telling a story is to follow a character arc that describes in incredible detail who a person really is — and why they really do what they do.

If the storyteller flubs any of those details, they’ll hear about it.  Audiences’s are just as attuned to how people really are as the storytellers; they want storytellers to remind them how people are, to reveal them in interesting new ways that play with storytelling conventions.  They want to see the world as they understand it — albeit with a few twists that expand their understanding of people and the world.

That’s what too many of our Journalists — storytellers all — continue to get terribly wrong.  They refuse to see all the characters in this piece for who they really are — falling into the trap of trying to describe non-normal characters in ‘normal’ terms instead.  The audience is starting to get antsy though…

We know the MSM storytellers are missing it right now.  They keep insisting on story elements and character details that just don’t ring true.  Because they don’t describe people (and characters) as we KNOW them.

 

The story of Donald Trump, the Republican Party & Election 2016 is only just beginning to get told correctly — with the perspective it demands.

Massive, Big stories are more complex, have more diverse characters with more diverse reasons for doing what they do.  It’s why hewing to storytelling basics are essential.  WHO are we talking about?  WHAT do they really want to accomplish within the context of both the larger story & the smaller one?  And, most importantly — WHY?

The Truth is, we already know WHY Donald Trump has done what he’s done.  He’s a narcissist and a fool.  He’s an egomaniac and a phony.  He’s a danger to everything we hold dear.

He’s the second worst thing to ever happen to America.  How he came to hold the reins of power in his tiny, orange hands — THAT’S the REAL story of our time…

Dear American News Media: Telling A Story Is Like ‘CLIMBING’ A Mountain – Not Just ‘LOOKING’ At One…

Mountains impress.  They wow you with their existence, their enormity, their majesty, their size.  On the one hand you want to revere it like a sentient creature, on the other, you want to climb it — not so much to master it as just to look it directly in the eye.

You want the mountain to know that you understand how to ‘tell ITS story’…

Because mountains are so big, to climb them, you have to prepare — get in shape, get the right gear — and (here’s the really important part) CHOOSE A PATH.  With a lot of mountains, attacking it directly — climbing straight up — will not work out well (no matter how experienced you are and how much your equipment cost).

So, the experienced mountain climber — having considered all the climbing conditions (which means they’ve familiarized themselves with every bit of the mountain — top to bottom) — will scope out and then plan for a particular ‘line of attack’ that will get them to the top safely and efficiently.

And then there are ‘tourists’ who love to look at mountains from afar.  The view is incredible — ‘comprehensive’ and complete in that we ‘see’ the whole mountain.  We know its shape and size and general ‘affability’ in the sunlight.

It looks ‘approachable’.

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It’s not.  The picture doesn’t tell you anything specifically about ALTITUDE other than there might be some.  If you’re there, ON the mountain?  That unseen force will dictate a lot of your feelings about the mountain.  Distances, too (from this distance) get distorted; a lateral move across the mountain’s face that looks ‘relatively straightforward’ from way, way, way back here is nowhere near that straightforward when you’re actually clinging to the mountain’s icy face…

That wide shot of the mountain is lovely.  But it doesn’t actually convey a whole lot about the mountain.

 

The first time a story comes over you — over me anyway — there’s a rush of ‘awe’.  It is very much like the feeling I get when driving, say, up the PCH in Big Sur and you see THIS around every curve —

It can stagger you with its Big Picture Awesomeness.  And you could lose yourself forever in any number of its Small Picture Details.

But for all any story’s beauty — or absurdity — or tragedy — you cannot tell it from miles away.  You have to GET INSIDE IT in order to report it.  But (and here’s where the MSM falls down 90% of the time) — You have to report it from inside while always keeping THE WIDE SHOT in your mind’s eye.  You have to see every bit of detail in its larger context — The Big Picture.

And then you have to remind yourself constantly:  What COMPELLED you to tell THIS story in the first place?

When you find your way atop a story — when you look it in the eye and know you found the best possible way to ‘tell it’, there’s always one last challenge awaiting you…

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How the hell do you get down?