This month, the loss of two magnificent storytellers rocked the world. In no time at all, my newsfeeds went from the regular dealings of the day to heartfelt tributes, impassioned stories of impact and teary videos explaining how important Alan Rickman, David Bowie, or both were to countless individuals.
In fact, both of these deaths shook me up. Bowie, for his unrelenting individuality and the permission it gave the rest of us to be our wonderfully weird selves. And Rickman, for playing so many characters so fully and colorfully, and for bringing one of the most enigmatic, dynamic characters in modern literature (and certainly in my life - Potterheads forever!) and for being a kind, compassionate human being. Did you have connections to either of these greats? I’d love to hear what you loved about them.
One of the things that struck me as everyone in my online and in-person network mourned the loss by revisiting their words and retelling the stories of when they were first introduced to the artistry of either individual, was the sheer power of well-commanded, emotionally-compelling storytelling.
Sure, Rickman and Bowie were world-famous, but at their heart they were storytellers, and damn good ones. So the techniques they used and the passion they held can be beneficial to any mode of storytelling, across any profession.
GREAT STORYTELLERS LEAD WITH HEART
Bowie’s songs brought tears to eyes and lit up the critical thinking centers in many a brain. Rickman’s acting endeared hearts, inspired hatred (of characters) and caused extreme emotion on all ends of the spectrum. These two told whatever story was put in front of them with genuine heart.
If you can pinpoint how you want your readers to feel with every piece of content you create, and focus on eliciting that emotion, you’re on your way to storytelling greatness. Emotion is the root of most action in most humans. Becoming a master of pulling the desired emotion out of your audience is a huge step toward becoming a great storyteller who sees great results in their business.
How big a part does emotion play in your current content strategy?
GREAT STORIES = COMPLEX STORIES
Bowie’s songs dealt with complex issues and themes, and Rickman’s characters, especially in the case of his portrayal of Professor Severus Snape, were nuanced to say the least.
The thing about great storytellers is that, while they don’t go out of their way to make things unnecessarily complex, they certainly don’t shy away from the complexities of life. Simplifying confusing concepts for your audience is totally cool, and often helpful. However, if you find a way to explain that confusing concept to them in a way where, when they walk away from your content they have a deep understanding of the concept without feeling like they were spoonfed jargon, you’re golden.
Have you tried to tackle any important topics in-depth with your audience? I’d love to hear how it went.
Glossing over the finer details might spare a person or two a headache, but you’re doing your audience a disservice if you don’t trust them enough to dive into some of the more complex issues that would help them solve the problems they have.
Trust your audience, don’t run screaming from the complex, instead focus on making it relatable. Tada, you’re a step closer to Grand Storyteller status.
GREAT STORYTELLERS ARE HUMAN
Bowie was a certified weirdo and we all loved him for it. He also had his vices. Rickman was a brilliant actor and had a huge heart, which was apparent in interviews. He also liked to laugh on set and occasionally took a role that wasn’t the best fit for him.
Being a great storyteller doesn’t demand perfection. In fact, it demands just the opposite. You cannot tell great stories if you do not make great mistakes. Lean in when you stumble, and instead of pretending it didn’t happen, take the time to examine the lesson you can learn from the mistake. To err is human nature - the sooner you embrace that for yourself and for your business, the sooner you’ll see the growth and engagement that comes from being real with your audience.
GREAT STORIES CAN'T BE IMITATED
No one can write songs like Bowie’s and pull them off. No one could have brought Professor Snape (and countless other characters) to life the way Rickman did. To tell great stories, you have to take the path less traveled. You have to look at things differently than the rest of the world looks at them. You have to dig deep, find your inner weird, and let it freaking shine!
Great stories can’t be imitated, you have to create them on your own, through trial and error, through grand adventures, through the risks you thought you couldn’t take. Take the risks, plan the adventures, and have a blast. Fall in love with the work you do, and the great storyteller inside you will come to life and rejoice.
What’s an experience you had recently that you could turn into a unique, epic piece of content for your audience?
The world felt the absence when Alan Rickman and David Bowie passed away. And throughout their careers, they made the world feel their presence. Lean in, live life fully and commit to a career you love. Then sit down and tell us about it, with heart, in the way only you can. That, my friends, is where truly great storytelling is born.