- Mon, March 26 2012
- Filed under: Writing
What’s the difference between the following?
I want my hat.
I want my hat back.
The first is a sentence, the second is a story. (Or at least, the start of one.) It brings stakes to the protagonist’s desires.
Storytelling is the crux of what we do as communicators, marketers and fundraisers, and I’m always looking for inspiration to sharpen my storytelling skills. Mark Rovner recently introduced me to the exceptional Wired for Story blog by Lisa Cron, which is full of fine writing and sound advice. She provides this example - the hat vs. the hat back - as an example of how critical it is to not only have a desire - but also a problem for the protagonist to solve - to power a story. A sought-after hat is less interesting than one that has gone missing.
She writes, “[There is] something we learned back in kindergarten, from books just like I Want My Hat Back, but it’s something that’s shockingly easy to overlook when we write stories of our own. To wit: it’s the very concreteness of the protagonist’s desire that allows us to delve into decidedly deeper matters.”
This gets me thinking about the stories we tell. I think we often talk of desire - a person needs food, a natural space needs to be preserved, a girl needs an education. But are we digging into the reason those desires exist? Did that person walk ten miles to a refugee camp to get food for a child? Is that park about to be bulldozed? What has given that girl her desire to learn?
We owe it to those who are part of our cause to honor the stakes of their stories. Show why the desire not only exists - but matters.