10 Tips for Narratives that Shine (III)
Designing Humane Narratives for a more Liveable World
Discover writing tips based upon the principles of the Manifest for a Story Revolution which followed up on Towards a Story Revolution. These tips add some practical wisdom and spice to the principles. May they help your create shiny narratives. If you have more, please add them in the comments. In fact many current champions in their narrative fields often already embraced many of these, and now, so can you.
Ten Tips to Make Narratives That Shine:
- Let humanity flourish on all levels. What makes ‘Amelie’ and ‘Everything Everywhere All the Time’ such warm moving pictures? The makers enjoyed making them. We feel it. They brought in humour, wonder and humanity. Also all characters in those movies were people with lives and more than one possibility. Choose actors that have chemistry.
- Play with Possibility. Rarely shared perspectives, unique art designs, surprising twists, provocative ideas, lateral connections, combining levels of experience. Tolstoy was a great writer. Many told stories that reflected how large event touched ordinary lives, or how ordinary events mirror the very big ones. He did both. How could you expand even on this? Wonder about such questions.
- Hey, I already mentioned Humour. Humour and satire can make hard topics digestible; they can help us see and laugh through the pain. And they prevent some movies from taking themselves way too serious. That’s why Lord of the Rings stayed alive and the Matrix series much less so. And don’t take yourself (or your story) too effing serious.
- And add some Wonder. Add some surreal, something unexplainable, some magic. Make people at the least suspect, there might be something more out there. Don’t fill it all in. Don’t explain it all. Let our grey cells dream, connect things, imagine, weave our own explanations. It keeps us attentive.
- Add some true wisdom. True wisdom comes in the flavours: real experiences that the makers know by heart, tough love sharing something painful to hear, and a deeper understanding about the nature of things that can be felt beyond the message.
- Rethink, question, challenge and criticise. Stories like SF often let us see what consequences current trends have, when they’d dominate in the future. Show alternatives to current trends. Criticise by questioning, revealing, exposing and having fun with our current issues. The more relevant your points, the more relevant free narraters will feel to the general public.
- Add puzzle, depth and imagination. Time spend considering longer on the story to add these is time spend well. Avoid being a copy, re-use tropes, being a watered down version of a success.
- Make the context come alive. The first Blade Runner is a cult classic that did this very well. The second tried to copy the formula. Feel the difference? Give your audience time to admire new landscapes, give them meaning, not just looks. Landscapes are not decor, they are part of reality and context. The Elden Ring game, Walt Whitman poetry, studio Ghibli, Tolkien, the TV series Atlanta, all did it. Give your audience the feeling that your lands stretch far beyond the story that is experienced.
- Make games more than a set of mechanics to beat. Add dilemma’s, drama and introduce consequences of shitty behaviour, so that we can relate. Check what games people talk about years later. Often it’s how immersed they felt. Here DnD’s new popularity shows that it’s not just the rules and story, it’s the players collaborating to make it happen. Similar stuff we see in Minecraft. Create such spaces.
- Have a point, not just events. So you want to make another kill-a-1000-different-monsters-game anyway? Why? What’s the point beyond keeping audience attached through action or drama? If there’s no point beyond your own income, then w t f? We’ll likely will never find the true meaning of life; the only thing we can do is to help others define their own through narratives that investigate choices and consequences.
- Go for the small human details. Obligatory kissing is nice. Yet consider a loving couple starting to kiss when her hair gets blown in between their lips. Then we see a tiny movement of him gently removing it, and her laughing shyly about it. Same with the famous studio Ghilbli details, like a little hand gently holding a finger of a much bigger one. Take your time for that.