Intensity

Will-Ferrell-–-Stranger-Than-Fiction-One of the things in a film or TV show that either connects us to it or pushes us away is the emotion and intensity. Emotions draw us into the plot in ways the story alone would not. We identify with them (i.e. happy/sad; light/dark; etc.).

As I think about various stories I have come across, I find I am drawn more to intense stories, whereas my wife is much more appreciative of the lighthearted, joyful film. This plays out in what TV shows and movies we prefer to watch. Needless to say, I find myself watching some films solo.

Recently I re-watched a favorite of mine, Stranger than Fiction. I love the storyline in this movie, the way it moves between reality and fiction. It takes an unrealistic idea and brings it into reality. Further still, it is presented in in such a way that to some characters it does not seem abnormal.

One scene always draws me in and reminds me how much I love this movie. Harold Crick, played by Will Ferrell, is so desperate to figure out and understand the voice he is hearing that he starts tearing apart his room. The scene’s intensity grips me every time. It ends with him looking at himself in the mirror shouting, “Say something!” his desperate plea to try and understand what is going on.

As I think about storytelling, I think of the honesty in the scene and how many people in real life are desperate either for someone to listen to their story or to speak into their life. So many times we are so self-focused or self-aware that we don’t interact with the lives of others. We never know who might be around us that at any moment is screaming, “Say something!” but no one is listening.

Maybe today, go listen to someone’s story or maybe share your story with someone else. Who knows what might come from it.

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Good Storytelling

Secret Life of Walter Mitty

©classic_film

I am a big fan of movies, especially movies with a great story. One of those movies is the recent version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. In case you aren’t familiar with the story it stems from a short story published in The New Yorker magazine. James Thurber’s 1939 story introduces the daydreaming adventurer Walter Mitty and follows him as he drifts between reality and fantasy. It’s a great read!

First made into a movie in 1947, it featured the talented Danny Kaye and followed somewhat close to Thurber’s original short story. The latest iteration though takes a little bit more license with the story and creates a beautiful movie that draws the watcher in with its remarkable layers and depth.

There are so many parts to this movie that have drawn me in and enthralled me that I don’t know which ones to even write about here. The principle idea, that a major news/media outlet has to undergo the switch from print to digital and the effect that it will have on the staff, is something that so many journalists across the world can easily identify with. There is quite a shift to go from designing for print vs. the web and to see if played out in a film allows the viewer to ironically (it seems to me) to get lost in a day dream–as Walter Mitty regularly does–where the action seems to be happening without ever really materializing.

As I have watched this movie countless times, I constantly find myself thinking about my own work in visual storytelling. I think about how I might identify with the characters in the movie, the depth of the character development allows you almost to get lost in them and to come out on the other side challenged by them.

I think that is one aspect of a great story, to be drawn in to a depth that you begin to incorporate aspects of the story into your own reality, where they fit. I’m not talking about trying to live someone else’s story, but being challenged to expand your own story deeper to realms you may not have thought were possible.

 

The Stories We Live

IMG_4426“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.” -Moby Dick

This is quite possibly one of the most recognizable opening lines in classic literature. But what makes this story and so many others so recognizable? What makes an interesting story?

To begin with, it would be helpful to discuss the idea of story itself. Generally, a great story will cover five basic (leaving all complexity aside) elements: Introduction/Beginning; Rising Action/Conflict; Climax; Falling Action; and finally Resolution/End. This is a general rule and has much flexibility to it, but if you pay attention to a good story, on some level, it will follow this template.

We each have our own story, as well as being part of a larger story involving others, but some people feel their story is not as exciting/interesting/creative as those around them. Those individuals therefore try to live vicariously through someone else’s story.

Maybe we fail to see our own story as interesting because we so often neglect to ask why. Why am I doing this? What is the point?

If story is revolving around an axis with some sort of climax, there must be an answer to the why question. Failing to know why we are living the story we are results in feeling like our lives are mundane and boring.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

I have chosen to work in a field where I get to tell people’s stories; stories that make each of us unique and interesting (even if we don’t think our own story is that interesting).  I have found that when we think about the ‘why’ question and can answer it, we usually find our story is not as boring and mundane as we might have thought. I get the privilege, like so many others, to challenge people to ask that question and see their story as interesting and dynamic.

Your story is as interesting as you want to make it. I don’t mean live someone else’s story as your own; rather, embrace the story you are in. See the creativity staring right at you, embrace the opportunities that are there and live an adventurous life wherever you are. I love the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and I think they have done a great job of capturing this idea of embracing the adventure that is right in front of you. It isn’t that you must travel to some exotic location in the world or do some amazing thing that no one else has ever done. It is that you live each moment to its fullest and live the story God has given you to live.

So I ask you, what story are you living out?