Storytelling is in danger, because Reality TV is trying to strangle it.
I don’t watch a lot of television, but when I do I am disturbed. The types of shows I grew up with, hour long dramas/adventures/comedies, with strong writing, relatable characters and a story arc are being hunted to extinction by ridiculous people who are famous because they behave poorly and someone puts it on television.
I saw an advertisement today for a show dedicated to a toddler – and her family of terminally obese loud mouths – who, apparently, competes in pageants (what kind of ‘pageant’ I don’t know) and is known for being ‘sassy’. During the commercial that child spoke continuously for thirty seconds and the only words I was able to decipher was “You better recognize!” And this, they tell me, is what is ‘Taking Television by Storm.’
May the gods help us all.
A story needs two things: Conflict and Arc. Everything else related to story – plot, characters, development, etc – will come in conjunction with those two things. The problem with reality TV is that, for the most part, it is Conflict without any Arc. People – highly ridiculous people – get mad, swear, have tantrums, stomp their feet, slap their relatives, fornicate with people they don’t want anyone to know they’re fornicating with and generally act in a manner that we would vehemently hope our children will not emulate. There is plenty of Conflict, but the characters don’t grow, change, or learn anything about themselves. Each ridiculous act is only a segue to another ridiculous act, and there is never any conclusion to it.
There is no Arc, therefore there is no story.
Story is important. Story helps us to learn about ourselves through relatable experience shared with one or many characters. Story allows us to escape and experience things we would not be able to see on our own. Story entertains us and allows us to make sense of our world when no sense is apparent. Story teaches us lessons that we need to learn, and helps us figure out who we are. Story does so many things, that they cannot all be listed here by a layman such as myself.
Story is important, and cannot be lost.
Our responsibility as Storytellers is to ensure that our current, and subsequent, generations are not left with nothing more than stupidity caught on camera to occupy their minds. It is our job to take our own lessons and experiences and share them with others through our stories.
It is not important what those lessons are, or what experience you want to share, the important thing is that the story is created. The story must be told, with your own, individual, valuable and infinitely important message embedded in it. Some people may hate it, and others love it, but I guarantee it will be deeply meaningful to someone. And if you can reach only one other human being, but it is on more than a superficial level, then you have done your job well.
Times have changed, and the further we go the quicker they change. My childhood companions were Stephen King, Jack Whyte, Terry Brooks, R.A. Salvatore, Robert Jordan and a dozen other authors whose ranks were bolstered by others as I got older. Kids now are accompanied by Kim Kardashian, Snooki and an overweight, ‘sassy’ toddler, who don’t want to tell them anything except how to be a rich pain in the ass who does nothing at all.
You, and I, and anyone else with a story to tell has the responsibility to get it down and put it out there, in whatever form speaks to you, because there has to be something for people to grow with, for them to cling to when times get rough, that says something besides “Oh my God, that is so hot!” or “You better recognize!”
So get to work, there is much to do.