The best stories bypass our senses and strike deep into our being – they move us to feel what the storyteller feels.
I’ve interviewed thousands of people – most with a microphone, first in radio and then in television news and now as a media producer. To be sure, speaking into a microphone and in front of a camera isn’t for everyone, but what I’m talking about applies to all stories whether recorded or not. Good stories give us images we can never forget.
Like the woman who told me how she reacted to the news that her fiance was killed in Vietnam. The image I have is that of a barefoot, sixteen year old girl running down a dusty country road to her fiance’s parent’s house where she finds the army notification team in the driveway. Another image has her and several of her friends spending the night in the funeral home. They just wanted to be close.
Not every story has to be dramatic or unique. I’m sure thousands of young women – more than we can imagine – ran to those they loved after receiving similar news during every American war since the Revolution. It’s not the story, per-se – but the way it was told that we find unforgettable.
The essential ingredient – the most basic necessity for any story or idea to embed itself in our mind’s eye, based on what I’ve learned in my work: authenticity.
I know it’s an overused word, but it’s true. Phoniness doesn’t make a mark on my emotional landscape, nor does someone who speaks without any consideration of the listener. If you’re going to say something, tell me in a way I will remember and please show me you care.
Next time: sympathy for the viewer.