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.