What’s old is new again
Storytelling has been around forever, and is at the heart of cultural traditions. It informs, connects and entertains. It has become very popular for everything from corporate communications to marketing. Storytelling isn’t just about words, but a variety of multimedia elements that, taken together, evoke, incent or inspire.
But we are drowning in content
Content is everywhere: the Internet made everyone an author/philosopher, but it didn’t make everyone a good writer. “Content curation” helps to sift through the voluminous mayhem, but curation is not a cure. How many times have you been hooked by a provocative title or headline only to find the content that follows unimaginative or unintelligible?
Shock, awe and ambiguity
Edginess often replaces creative and thoughtful content as a means to stand out from the crowd. But if nothing shocks or surprises us anymore, how can we similarly be delighted? Even the most dramatic language will eventually attract ambiguity. Just as “urgent” has lost its urgency, the extreme is becoming less extraordinary. The many messengers create further noise that first beckons our attention and then quickly loses it. Ambiguity (and the tolerance of it) is robbing us of delight through its sameness and saturation.
So what do we do?
We work at it! The formula for cutting through the clutter and creating effective communications isn’t a big mystery, but it takes serious effort. Too much detail in a world of short attention spans will lose your audience, but you have to paint a picture and help them connect the dots: facilitate. Plain language is more accessible – for EVERYONE. Skip the academic or corporate jargon. And stop spoon-feeding with detail. Remember Hemingway? Stimulate the imagination…
Creating a narrative that resonates
…for an affective response
To be effective, you need to be affective as well. This is especially important for building narratives, regardless of the purpose. Individual words can have a tremendous impact. Think of the power of “yes” or “no” in a text, video or graphic.
Captivation: from “cool” to “wow”
To captivate, you must not only attract attention, but hold it. Captivation creates an affective experience that inspires both intellectual and emotional responses. When the audience member can imagine how it would feel to have been at the scene, or been in someone else’s shoes as described through the narrative, there is a point of personal connection. Crisp, clear language that complements visuals and other sensory offerings is far more effective than verbosity.
Why the blog format is so popular
The plain language and brevity of posts makes them easier to write and easier to consume. The blog format has a more “personal” feel – like a conversation. Blog posts often tell a story, and storytelling creates a more collaborative community or audience that shares relatable posts. The act of sharing stories reinforces the social benefits of the community.
Be careful with language
Watch out for buzzwords and clichés, and double-check meaning. If you’re undertaking a fulsome review, be sure that your review is excessive and lavish, because that’s what fulsome means. A tortuous process is full of twists and turns; a torturous process denotes something a little more painful.
But it still has to evoke…and entertain
(From my winning entry in the Toronto Star’s 2013 Poetry Week contest.)