It is not black or white.

The way we tell stories by Florian Thalhofer. Reflections and observations

I was planing to begin my research with Joseph Campbell and take the predicted linear route to understanding storytelling but starting with this talk on “The Way We Tell Stories” by Florian Thalhofer has already changed that pattern. I really liked the talk because I think it grounded me a little bit on the idea of storytelling which I perceive to be flamboyant or nerve raising to be successful. I believe it is too early for me to comment on the classical and linear structures of storytelling like Florian does but there are a few aspects from his talk that I personally regard.

One was on how films have set a narrative formula that is being used by companies, media politics and scarily even in human interactions. I had to pause to think how in life we all have this urge to have our hero moments and how we run those hero moments in our head over and over again. How hero moments are celebrated and normality is considered to be not worth living. A big thanks to that film formula and of course the advertising world that thrives on making normal look boring.

Another aspect that Florian talked about was how the ‘linear causal thinking’ way of storytelling might not be the right tool for today’s problems because it addresses the extremes while most of the people fall under the normal category. Normal people can best learn from normal people. Learning from extreme examples can be frustrating. Which made me wonder if stories on normal lives can still have that wow factor that extreme stories so famously use. But then I also feel that when too many people chase the hero’s story, the life of a simple farmer becomes more exciting.

He also spoke about how there are many angles to a story. It reminded me of ‘Roshoman’ by Akira Kurosawa, a movie about many truths to one story. I think this aspect might be essential to storytelling in journalism but I not sure for other kinds of storytelling. For example, if I want to teach a child about how stealing is bad, I will tell him a story about a thief and how he got beaten up the villager for stealing a cow. The kid will learn how stealing is bad and you get punished if you steal. But if I tell him that the thief stole the cow because he wanted to save the life of a baby calf who had lost its mother and had not milk to drink, I might confuse the child and he might not be able to decide if stealing is wrong. I would fail my purpose but the child’s mind will be stirred, he would have to decide and not me for him.

But having said that, I am already liking the idea of many truths and grey ares. Because it leaves space for possibilities and doesn’t divide the world in black and white. Which makes me think why did all stories for kids decide right from the beginning what lesson they wanted to teach. If these stories were left more open ended would morality in children developed differently, maybe slightly less rigid?

Lastly, I would like check out his Korsakow software but will need the help of a techie friend.