I read fiction. I am a feminist. I can’t watch violent movies. Which is why I recently passed an hour reading a 10,000-word essay on violent erotic novels.
That’s the power of a really, really good story.
It’s not about subject matter.
It’s about the way it is told.
In this case, it was told on pages 38-43 of the New York Times Magazine from Feb. 8, 2015. “My Dad the Pornographer: What the king of 20th-century smut novels left his son.”
I’ll give a dab of credit to the person who laid out the article and the photographer who shot art. But it’s the writer who convinces you his words are worth your time.
No, that his words make you forget time.
In this particular case, my brief lunch break faded into words written and re-written so carefully that the result – perfectly planted with arresting details – was a nonchalant flow of brilliance.
Let’s look at it another way.
The story was so effing good, I put off taking a shower so I could write a blog post about how good the story was. Sha-blam!
When you look up from your book or magazine or computer screen and realize that you’ve just spent 47 minutes reading about a subject that you have utterly no interest in, find the author’s name.
They are not a writer, or a PR flak, but a storyteller.
The New Yorker is one of the best publishers of excellent storytelling. I’m a fan of the Sunday New York Times as well. The rest of the time I rely on the recent fiction display at my local public library. I love me some librarians.
Back to stories. The power of storytelling is three fold.
- The ability to get the attention of people who have much, much better things to do.
- The ability to spread information that would otherwise die.
- The ability to waste other people’s time.
It’s the first two that are important. In public relations and marketing, getting someone’s attention long enough to share a client’s information is tricky, to put it in technical terms.
But weave all those facts and product specs into a story, and you have a chance.
Because just about everyone loves a good story.