Perspective. Observation. Clarity. These words help me find vision. And vision is something we need to differentiate ourselves within the horde that’s creating images. But I believe these words are also a component and fundamental layer in storytelling.
So, what if we took the Big Bang Theory and applied it to storytelling? That moment of creation is when the story begins to have structure. That it’s something tangible. That if you inserted all of your facts and research on a story into the three-act formula, the result would be that moment. But what happens before the Big Bang moment?
First, you must have one regarding your story and you must apply it. For a moment forget objectivity if you come from a journalistic background. Of course, you must maintain ethics, but your vision is created from being subjective.
Perspective also can be used as a tool. The same story can be told from different points of view. Finding the viewpoint for your story is a key part of the information-gathering process and deciding how to tell it. Brainstorming other POVs is a great way to get around roadblocks; it’s an important tool to have in the box.
This is a quality we already mastered when creating still images. It’s so ingrained in our thinking it’s hard to extract the idea from our thought process. It’s something we just do. But how do we use it when storytelling?
A great exercise is to engage in people-watching. Do it whenever you have a few free minutes. (Airports are great places to practice.) Become a harmless stalker. Learn to read people, their reactions, their motivations. And if you want to go for gold, engage in conversation with strangers and take the next step as if you were interviewing a subject. You have nothing at stake, you’re just honing your skills of observation.
Learn to be clear. Learn to be direct. Ask others who understand storytelling for blunt force feedback and become comfortable with it. Sure, it can be a shot to the ego, but you’ll need to get past that to grow as a storyteller.
To find clarity you may also have to go off on wild tangents. While they often turn out to be nothing more than distractions, exploring an alternate direction can sometimes lead to clarity. You may discover what’s important to cut from your story. Exploring tangents can also lead you to undiscovered perspectives and aid your story’s journey into existence, so don’t rule them out entirely.
Previously published on ASMP’s Strictly Business Blog.
John Welsh is a photographer from Philadelphia and, to keep himself sane, tries not to think about what was there before the cosmological Big Bang moment (if that truly is how we all got here).