The Mystery of Storytelling – Julian Friedmann

Source: Blake Friedmann website
Source: Blake Friedmann website

Some time ago, I listened to a TED talk given by Julian Friedmann on The Mystery of StorytellingJulian Friedmann represents both book and script writers through the agency he established in 1976, now called Blake Friedmann in partnership with Carole Blake.

I’m sure each of you would find other memorable points from this talk, however, these stood out for me.

Storytelling is about the audience – it’s not about plot or characters and certainly not about the author.

Writers have to be experts in human behaviour – why people are who they are and do what they do

Stories define us and Aristotle defined the formulapity, fear, and catharsis. Pity for the characters – an emotional connection. Fear for the characters – readers have to care in order to be fearful. Catharsis when the character is released from the fearful situation.

Pity, fear and catharsis can be reframed as suffering, struggle and overcoming. The triad extends to the notion of beginning, middle and end. Clearly three is a magic number.

How do audiences use stories? Julian’s answer is readers use stories to rehearse their fears. Fears about death, failure, marriage, parenthood, loss, tragedy, aging, disease, disaster, and so on.

To be effective writers need to:

  • develop accessible characters
  • provide upbeat endings
  • think movie and offer less dialogue
  • create strong visual aspects because we believe what we see more than what we hear
  • create shorter scenes to allow your audience to fill in the gaps
  • enable readers to look at themselves

A great list to post on my bulletin board the next time I develop a story.

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The historical fiction author behind A Writer of History...

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2 Responses

  1. These are some very compelling points; I’m going to listen to the talk. But could you explain the point “think movie and offer less dialogue”? Because it seems to me that most movies contain rather a lot of dialogue.

  2. Excellent and timely. I have been struggling on self edits and structuring for over a year on my 256k four volume draft book GEMINI. Now on a must do by Christmas 2015 target. The story contains plenty of fear … so that’s good … I am generally less happy with they lived happy ever after endings. Robert McKee – STORY is good on the words and pictures issue. Continuously asking oneself “What’s point to potential reader.”[ WP2PR ] of every sentence, paragraph, scene, chapter and book is hard work but rewarding to end result. How do you find time to write with all these wonderful posts and the great survey? I will pass on in my next TIPM post with a credit if that’s all right.

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