Stories are remarkable things. They have the power to alter the tempo of reality – slow it right down to a nice, easy pace. The perfect pace in fact to allow you to step out of your reality, and enter into an entirely new one. A little like those old London Routemaster buses with the open back – when the bus slowed just enough, you could step off and retain your cool, making a seamless transition from the bus to the pavement. No trips or tumbles to be seen.
So when it comes to telling a story, the onus falls on you to recreate this remarkable quality, the quality that keeps our bookshelves forever stacked and our Kindles brimming and our Amazon orders flowing. To put it simply, you kind of have to tell a good story.
I recently set myself the challenge to write my first screenplay. It was the hardest thing I’ve done since my 10,000 word dissertation on Sex Differences in Cognitive Reasoning (which was thorough and impressive in every way). And while I toiled away an entire day just trying to decide on the general plot, I realised something hugely elucidating.
Now, we all know that 50 Cent was shot 9 times. We know the ins and outs of Eminem’s marital history. We know that Christina Aguilera is now beautiful “no matter what they say”. We know all the life stories of so many strangers. But there is one binding thread – they are all also artists. And that’s where it all begins to make sense. When you’re trying to tell a good story, to create a piece of compelling art, you need some good material. And though your own story is the hardest one to tell, it’s the story that we know the best.
So where I used to ask myself why Enrique Iglesias felt that I should know the depths of pain and passion of his most recent break-up, I now understand. When you want to create something meaningful - something absorbing, you may well look for inspiration in the thing that means the most to you. And what can be more meaningful than the events of your own life? What could mean more than your own life story? Do tell.