My younger sister is working on her essays for college and this question caught my attention: what are the characteristics of powerful stories and storytellers?
I’ve been trudging through a treatment of a long-form series I want to shoot and thought answering this question might inspire me. I was right. This is my answer…
The characteristics of the most powerful stories and storytellers are as elusive as they are precise. To be powerful, a story must stay with the viewer or the reader once it is no longer in front of them.
Characterization is key. It is a great writers’ responsibility to develop characters that audiences can feel and then make horrendous things happen to them. When characters are gray, a flawed hero, for example, or a villain with a heart, it is almost impossible not to be drawn in. People like to feel and people like to have their emotions stirred. They like to cry, to laugh and to get angry.
Great stories always have some form of love present. Love is the greatest of everything this world has to offer and every living thing requires it to survive. Every living thing has also suffered at some point in the pursuit of it and knows the extent of its power. When this can be depicted in a story, it propels that story.
The powerful stories and storytellers are bold. They confront an issue that is real and offer an interesting or unexpected view. They blur the line between right and wrong and challenge our thoughts and feelings of certainty. They are marked by their ability to capture human nuances and to portray emotional honesty.
Finally, they have just the right touch of the intangible magic known as imagination. Every great film, television series, stage play or book has been elevated above the crowd by the storytellers’ ability to imagine. Imagination is the red thread that runs through the fabric of a great story.
…I’m sharing it just in case it inspires you too.