Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Stories can change the world. Let's tell them right.


When writing stories, it's important to remember that whatever the topic, the story you are really writing is your own. Your history, your politics, your background will all be there. It might be inconsequential; your use of semi-colons, your position on the Oxford comma, your preference for pointlessly complex sentence structures. Also present might be more unwelcome guests; unconscious prejudices, preconceived ideas, adopted narratives.

If you don't remain vigilant when you write, these intruders can end up writing the story for you, and also for everyone else. Everything you have ever read, every experience, every story and song you have ever heard is there in your head, waiting for you to stir them all together into new shapes and structures. Not all of those stories are good stories and like a virus, they seek to replicate themselves. They may be present in your choice of words, in the order you present your ideas, the tone you adopt.

Remember that when you tell a story, no matter what the format - a tweet, a conversation, an article, a song - you are creating the raw material from which others will tell the story. When you sit in front of a keyboard or a blank page and you dip into the shimmering mass of words, listen to everything they are telling you. Bad stories aren't just told in hate speech, they are told in a careless choice of words, a deviation towards a dominant narrative or allowing your story to dominate that of another.

Every single human experience enters our consciousness as a story. To change the world, we must change the stories we tell and that starts with the stories we tell ourselves. Make them the right ones.

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