What’s Your Angle: The Art of Story-Selling

February 22, 2011

We in the communication community have a responsibility. We have to get messages across to our audience in a way that not only tells them everything we want them to know, but also tells them in a way that interests them. It’s hard to get people to change(unless you go about it the right way-see me last two posts), but if we tried our best and still come up short, the fact that we put up a valiant effort is all we can ask for. There’s nothing worse than finishing up with this class, looking at the final products that we put out, and saying “Oh, I should have done this. It would have made it so much better.” The only way to avoid this: Try. Try something different when doing the slideshow. Add an important caption, try a nice wipe that really hits home the contrast between two images or ideas, use a different inflection in your voice. If it doesn’t work, you’ll know it. You can always remove it, but the important thing is that you went out of your comfort zone to do something you weren’t sure of doing.

“THE EDGE, there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over”-Hunter S Thompson. I’m sure there are other quotes about this by some ancient Biblical or Shaolin proverbs about this, but Thompson probably knows a little more than them about going over the edge.If you have an idea and don’t mention it in class, or to your group, you might as well not have thought of it. It will just go back into the oblivion that birthed it, never seeing the light of creation, never knowing if it was good enough to be included with the rest of the ideas. When in reality, it probably is.

” Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”-Frank Zappa. Listen to one of his records and you’ll see how progessive Zappa really was. He preached going out on a limb and trying new things. How else can you explain a satirist rock legend making jazz-fusion and later classical albums? Not just making albums, but critically acclaimed albums that are considered some of the best creations of the past 50 years. He pulled no punches, which is also what got him in hot water with many political groups. But he’s right: how can we progress unless we try to be “weird.” What’s weird today is common tomorrow. Most underground artists are not appreciated today, but later we found that they were on to something, and a whole new generation take inspiration from them.

Why are shows like Two and a Half Men constantly panned by critics and audiences alike? They offer nothing new. That show has been using the same storylines since the first season, and people who want something easy to digest go for it. But nobody sees the end of an episode and goes “Oh my god, that was great. I’m so glad I watched it.” They’ve hit a comfort zone and chose to stick with it, cause as long as it draws a paycheck, why try to expand your medium? As opposed to Arrested Development, Firefly or Venture Brothers, all of whom go out and try to do something different, not really getting mainstream approval but giving inspiration to others. At the end of the day, that’s all you can really hope for…not that you got fame, or your idea was well liked, but that your idea inspired someone.

These shows are great because they tell a story. That’s why those who find these gems can latch onto characters that are created. These characters aren’t stereotypes, put into the same situations that have been seen on shows for decades and used to push certain products or beliefs. That’s part of the reason I’m not really behind a lot of green media. It all sounds the same; someone telling me to go change my lightbulbs to energy efficient ones and not to eat certain types of meat because they’re corn fed, with a stern voice that talks down to me and reads like a school announcement. They have an image to protect, especially if they’re a well known blogger(whatever the hell that means), so they can’t really go out and be crazy. There is no story behind what they’re selling, cause it’s simply another podcast or audiocast where they push the same ideas that everyone else is pushing with no real passion or anything. Whether they follow a checklist or standard or not, formulas lead to boring routines that keep away everyone who isn’t dedicated to the cause. It’s even worse when they’re fumbling around.

I’ll go out of my comfort zone with the following declaration: Professional wrestling is scripted. Matches have predetermined outcomes and they pick spots before the match. But, if the story they tell in the ring is compelling, it is worth watching. It’s hard to bring in a non-wrestling fan into the culture, but many use the match between Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle at Wrestlemania 21 to show them what wrestling has to offer. Considered one of the best matches of the past decade, it shows what happens when two performers go to another level, out of their comfort zones and try to one-up each other in technical prowess and big moves.They aren’t trying to fight one another(well, they are) but rather are telling a story and doing a great job of selling their pain. Each part, the intros, exchanges, near falls and especially the finish are at a high caliber and keep the crowd into it.

The audience can have three reactions following a match:

  1. They can show indifference.
  2. They can cheer that it’s over. OR
  3. They can cheer because it was awesome and they were glad they got a chance to see it.

That is how the fans reacted after HBK-Angle. They were esctatic becaus they saw something that was genuine and told a story that they didn’t want to see end, but were happy they got to come along for the ride. Even the fans chanting “You Suck” were doing so out of respect. These two know the art of storytelling. It’s something we in the field of communication should take note of. Any good podcast can get listened to, but a great podcast will bring you in and make you want to keep coming back. Even if we don’t hit our mark the first time, if we do leave our all in the ring, at least we can say we tried, and the audience will respect that. We tried to go over the edge, tried to progress our medium, and we will most likely fail now, but in inspiring our audience, our message will mean much more than a win or loss.

And they will stand up and applaud our efforts at the end of the semester, not because it’s over, but because we did our best, and they were glad they were the select few who could bear witness to it.

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One Response to “What’s Your Angle: The Art of Story-Selling”

  1. Caron said

    Great Hunter Thompson quote. Wonderful approach to the blog and to problems.

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