What is a story? Quentin Tarantino was asked that very question. What he said is “A man and a woman are at a restaurant. The man turns to the woman and says ‘I love you’. The woman says ‘no I love you’ and he says ‘no I love you more’. That’s not a story. A man and a woman are at a restaurant and the man turns to the woman and says I love you, and she picks up a fork and stabs him in the eye. Now that’s a story!”
While this gives us an insight into most of Tarantino’s films, it is actually very insightful, because at there essence:
Stories explore the gap between what we expect to happen and what actually occurs.
Everything we do, we do with an expected outcome. I will tell her I love her and she will say it back. Story exists when we don’t get what we expect, it creates a gap, a new course of action and a new expectation which leads to the next gap, and so on. People tend to gloss over the gaps but this is where the real story exists. We all experience this. The bus doesn’t come on time making you late for work. You phone a friend to ask how they are doing and they don’t answer your call. You tell someone you love them and they smile and say thanks….
This unmet expectation draws the audience in and gets them to say “oh no” and makes them curious about what happens next. Often people gloss over these things or ignore them because they are considered to be negative and you can’t tell a negative story.
One of the biggest mistakes I see leaders make is they only tell a positive story. Imagine if you are in a social situation and you meet someone for the first time and all they talk about is how good they are. How they have the best husband or wife, the best kids, how great they are at their job. Chances are you’re not going to be speaking to them for long.
If we only talk about our success people won’t believe us.
People engage with authenticity, and you can’t be authentic unless you tell the whole story. So when creating a story, you should always ask “where are the gaps?” because if there are no gaps there is no story.