Michael Kruse on the Future of Stories

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December 5, 2012

Everyone wants to know what’s up with storytelling. Why it’s important, how to do it, and most desperately, where it’s going. Accordingly, TEDx recently held an event in Florida that was dedicated to talking about the future of stories (check out the details here). Among the collection of speakers was Michael Kruse, a staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times–a publication that, despite the declining reputation of printed media, is gaining circulation.

Kruse highlighted eight interesting points about telling stories, and while I personally don’t subscribe to all of them, I think they’re definitely worth consideration as we content people march onward:

1. A lot of people say they just want the facts, but nobody wants just the facts. Wanting the story is a part of who we are.

2. Today, thanks to the social media/digital boom, information is not what’s scarce. What’s scarce is attention. It’s important to note that just before this bullet, Kruse pointed out he didn’t have any slides to accompany his presentation. And then he actually asked his audience to pay attention to him rather than dismiss his no-frills talk in favor of Twitter or some other platform. “I think its important, critically important at this point, to be able to move really really quickly; [to] swim in that stream, and then just as quickly change gears. Stop. Sit still and stay still and pay attention to just one thing. For just a little bit.”

3. Stories must have conflict. No conflict, no story. “Gates dont work. Walls dont last. They never last.”

4. You can tell a story in 140 characters or less. Kruse used  famous Hemingway example:  For sale: baby shoes. never worn.

5. The danger with blogging is that the more you blog the less you see. They start to feel like tunnels.

6. Articles are parts of stories–usually the beginning or the end.

7. While some of us may feel like it’s our job to be on the lookout for new stories, the reality is there are only so many, and always have been only so many (F. Scott Fitzgerand said there are only two; Christopher Booker claims seven). “These are how we’ve communicated with each other. These stories are how we’ve oriented ourselves in the messy pointless chaos of existence. These are the stories we told ourselves and each other before we could write them down. these are the stories that our ancestors drew on walls of caves. … what are political campains but story contests? They don’t talk about the issues because they’d lose if they talked about the issues. We dont think in issues, we think in stories. And we always have.”

The eighth and final point of Kruse’s talk was that stories aren’t going to change because of Facebook or Twitter or brand-y blogs.  “The future of stories is stories,” he said.

Agree? Disagree? Check out his talk in full below and let me know what you think.

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