Pay No Attention to the Man, Woman, or Whaterver Behind the Curtain.

What makes for a well-told story? I’m not asking what makes a story good or bad. It is true a well-told story can mean the difference between a story being liked or disliked, but that isn’t always the case.

The most interesting thing about bad storytelling is that it has never stopped an audience from enjoying a story they liked. The stories that interest us as human beings all share some basic elements whether the media\genre is a newspaper article, novel, short story, TV drama, radio drama, true story, current event, biography, memoir, or historical event . Let me give you an example.

I don’t like opera or light opera, but I love a good story. Here is a story I liked:

As a narratives go, there are definite things going on in this clip. There is so much more going on story-wise underneath and behind that is designed to be transparent to the audience. It is this transparency that often means the difference between getting people to view your work or ignore it. When a storyteller learns to master (just knowing them isn’t enough) these transparent elements, it won’t matter what genre or media you use, people will watch, listen, or read your narratives.

If you were in a face to face class with me, after having watched the video, I would ask, “How many of you found the clip interesting and would at least tune in for the next episode?” Of course there’s always some punk in a one hundred level course that thinks showing any interest in a class topic is uncool, but the bulk of students I have shown this clip do found it interesting.

Now comes the fun part,  Did you like this? What makes this something you would follow into the next week to find out what happens or not follow? Please post your answers as replies.

Of course I’m going to share these transparent things, but I want to give you dear audience the opportunity to weigh in. Why? Because learning is always best done together, and I may be the one sharing this, but I never pass up an opportunity to learn something new from others.

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18 thoughts on “Pay No Attention to the Man, Woman, or Whaterver Behind the Curtain.

  1. Of course I liked it. It’s a rags to riches story, the same theme that has millions glued to shows like this, or movies that have the same type of story. It’s everyones’ dream to become an overnight success story. It gives us hope and has us believing that miracles can and do still happen.

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  2. Well, I don’t normally watch reality TV but that was pretty interesting! I’d be curious to see how things go for them. It’s natural for people to want to root for the underdogs or those facing severe obstacles. And the fact that they only just met and barely know each other makes one want them to succeed. (And I’m not an opera person but I do enjoy many musicals and Gilbert & Sullivan light-operas.)

    “The most interesting thing about bad storytelling is that it has never stopped an audience from enjoying a story they liked.” – this I think explains phenomena like Twilight. Analytically, it’s not a great story. But something in the core of the story speaks to a lot of females.

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  3. The element of surprise was fantastic. I watched their intro and wondered if they were really going to have any talent or if they were one of the “red herrings” in these shows that are so awful they are brought on for the comedy. As soon as Mr. New York opened his mouth in song, I was stunned – as were many in the audience! I’m a vocalist, and I recognized the piece the piece they chose, then watched and listened as each voice soared. I’m going with: a good surprise makes an excellent story.

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    • The element of surprise is usually very entertaining when it’s done right. Who doesn’t like a good plot twist. Did you notice the cutaway shots to the girl in the audience that said, “what a joke.” before they sang, just to reinforce the surprise. The tenors sounded great of course, but did you notice the song they sang was very simple with little harmonizing.

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  4. I see what you mean, Tim. It was like a setup. If you had three guy walk out that had been singing together for years, perhaps grew up as a vocal group, and they came out and gave the performance, it would still be good, but nothing special. It would be expected. And that was the challenge – now that we know you’re good, what are you going to do next?

    But yes, I agree with the others. I really enjoyed this clip. I enjoy being pleasantly surprised by those around me, and want to root for the talented average guy.

    Now, how to work that into my stories…

    These are great posts, Tim. Please keep them coming.

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    • You are the first to mention the setup, and this is where the next article is going. What I saw was great, but there was a lot of staging going on. It was so good, that no one cares. That is good narrative building, and all the elements were there.

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      • Yes, but I feel manipulated when I stop to think about it. LOL

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        • Yes, Lisa, that is absolutely correct and you are beginning to understand the rhetorical nature of fiction writing and the fine line between the presentations of truth, or a truth, and propaganda. A reader can tell when they feel manipulated because their belief systems are being forced to go in ways they are uncomfortable. This is why there is so much tension in YA and children’s books because younger audiences can’t always tell when someone is trying to manipulate them. Adults can’t always either. The really good story tellers understand this.

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        • I wasn’t feeling manipulated. But now that you’ve pointed it out…

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          • Absolutely! There is a fine line between telling a story that invites a reader to come into the story to share in the emotions expressed and purposely manipulating the audience to feel certain ways. Now you can see why agents, publishers, writers, literary critics, etc become so jaded after a while.

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          • I’m most sensitive to manipulation when they’re trying to force emotional trauma or tears. Or in church when the worship leader is trying to hard.

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          • I wouldn’t quite classify worship in the same boat as a narrative. Since you brought it up, a lot of people go by their emotions (or lack thereof) when judging worship services. Praise is first and always an act of faith and love and which don’t always coincide with what I may be feeling at the time. . I don’t have to feel joyful to choose and express joyfulness, I don’t have to feel loved to be loving (though it helps a lot). Where worship leaders get themselves into trouble is when they take upon themselves the burden of generating a particular responses from a congregation toward God. You don’t drive sheep, you lead them. Cattle on the other hand is another matter. Confessions of a Former Worship leader..

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          • Lol. Same here!

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          • It’s not the same as a narrative but it’s the same flawed methodology of dragging something on and on in an attempt to make sure every single person fully revels in the emotions.
            My husband & I are horrible sometimes. During the stand-up-sit-down-stand-up of church (which is always instigated by one or two people in the congregation and rarely by the leaders – they don’t need to) we’ve been known to *baah* at each other quietly…

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          • Yeah I feel that. You know what, God has set us free, so I choose not to yield to peer pressure, but the nudging of the Spirit. He says its okay to sit down if I want to.. 🙂

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