Monday, October 17, 2011


I am getting an early start on this Newsletter because, as well as being an AWFUL Sydney day outside, I read something I had to share straight away.

Our species are, inherently, storytellers.

Anyone who has ever told a story, at a dinner table, at a pub, on stage or on the screen, knows there is something amazing that happens when people connect with the story and you nail the ending. They laugh, they cry, they smile. Drinks are bought for you and, in the weeks that come, a thousand feeble attempts at retelling the story are made, that usually end with the statement: "Well, I guess you had to be there."

I have told many stories in many pubs. Some go really well, but others end in tumbleweeds. When the awkward silence ensues, I am often left wondering, what was missing from this one?

In a professional arena like film or TV, the risks of not getting this right are huge, given a film falling flat can literally bankrupt a studio ( for proof).

The end result is an entire industry of story experts (known as "script doctors") has grown, who specialise in selling their brand of story structure advice to the world. For example, on Amazon there are 1,545 individual paperback tomes on 'screenwriting' alone. Some are great, many are not.

With that in mind, I was reading an interview from one of these script doctors, sipping my tea and looking at the black clouds outside, and he actually produced the best one line summary of a 'good story' that I have ever seen:

Story is the perfect union of character and plot.
- John Truby

He qualified this with slightly more detail: "Most writers think plot and story are identical. They aren’t...fundamentally a good story is, once again, plot coming from character and character coming from plot."

This may seem overly simplistic, but to me it sums it up perfectly. A detailed character, in an interesting story, where the two are inextricably inked.

I can think back to all the stories I have told and heard in pubs and say that, without a doubt, Truby's summation is the reason why I have been either left laughing or being laughed at.

Worth sharing, methinks.

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