Telling stories, telling lies

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Stories are everywhere.

We’re all naturally interested in stories. We connect with them, learn from them, and share them. Whether in word, song, or video, stories are the substance that ignite the social spread of viral memes–interactive or otherwise.

And whether you’re branding a product, writing a screenplay, or designing a website, you’re telling a story. If you really wanna break it down, stories are the simplest and most ancient form of communication strategy.

But stories, and all the choices that go into shaping them, take on a subtle structure. One that can collapse easily. Because some stories are pure lies.

Fiction and lies

There’s a difference between fiction and a lie. Fiction is the art of wrapping some truth or universal experience into the attractive outer layer of the story you make up. Or a true story that’s embellished. If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you millions and billions of times, there’s no shortage of creative embellishment on this planet. It’s human nature.

So are lies, I suppose. There are people and products that claim to be things they just aren’t. Problem is, if you build a story based on lies, most intelligent people will know it. Most people (even those that aren’t intelligent) have an instinctive bullshitometer built into their heads that they’re not even aware is there. When they hear a lie, they kinda turn away. Ever have a pretty girl tell you she’d love to hang out, but has to do [something that doesn’t involve you and never will]? Ever see an ad on TV or hear a politician [not Obama, of course!] talk? Yeah? Then, intellectually, you probably found yourself maybe wanting to believe the story (we don’t like to think of people as liars), especially when the lie is convenient for us to believe. But emotionally, you probably turned away from the person or product.

You turn away from bullshit. Because lies in communication always create a distance between people. Lies are a barrier to what the person, product, or service are actually about.

Genuine communications

So if you work in communications or are trying to build your brand or biz, this is really important to consider. If you can embed authenticity into your story–regardless of whether that story is informing, selling, or entertaining–then you’re adopting a genuine approach to your communications strategy. This is great, because it honors the intelligence and humanity of your audience. And best of all, you create something that your audience will intuitively be attracted to.

If your story is genuine, people will like you and your product more for reasons they may not be able to explain. Even if you’re working on a fiction novel or a screenplay, keep the characters real and true to who they are in the world they live in. People will resonate with them more. This goes for visual art, too. Whatever the story is, make it genuine.

Be real. Even if you’re fictitious.

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