How good are we at spotting a great story? Do the toy and play industries inject enough great storytelling into their creations? Those were the questions I asked myself as I read an interesting review of a new book, The Storytelling Animal, by Jonathan Gottschall. The review, by David Eagleman, appears in The New York Times Book Review.
What first caught my attention is the notion that we actually “… spend a great deal of time in fictional worlds, whether in daydreams, novels, confabulations or life narratives." In other words, we either are busy telling ourselves stories or diving into to those of others via books, television shows or the Internet.
Think you don’t tell yourself stories? Well, how about what goes through your mind before an interview or presentation? As you wait to enter, your mind continually imagines the various ways the meeting will go down. Those are stories.
Many stories we tell ourselves are pure fantasy as we imagine the imaginable (a date with the person in the upstairs apartment) and the unimaginable (a date with a movie star). We create stories of telling off the boss, saving someone from danger, being the lead singer in a band and much, much more. You are in short, a storyteller…to you.
What is interesting is that many of the stories we read and tell ourselves are scary. Being scared seems to be a big part of storytelling. Many daydreams and stories, according to Gottschall, are “horrorscapes. They bubble with conflict and struggle...Trouble, Gottschall argues, is the universal grammar of stories.”
What is the purpose of these scary stories? According to the author, telling ourselves scary stories is
As I read the article, my mind was drawn to Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In that book, he tells us that there is a pattern of heroic storytelling that spans thousands of years and virtually all cultures: The Hero’s Journey.
It then struck me that those who create great licenses, and as importantly, those who choose to put them on their products would benefit from understanding the power of storytelling and the elements of the Hero’s Journey. That in my next posting.