By KeriLee Horan
Like any good story, Thursday’s StoryDrive conference began with “Once upon a time.” Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal, explained why humans are intrinsically drawn to stories. The success of books, television, video games, songs, even commercials, he asserted, are contingent upon a story connecting with us emotionally, now more than ever.
“We’re all competing in this attention economy,” he said, explaining that increased time spent with our devices is not solely to blame for our distracted nature and short attention spans. “The mind is a wanderer by nature,” he explained. “We have about 100 daydreams per hour.”
Great stories, however, stop us in our tracks. “When we’re absorbed in a really good story, we experience zero daydreams per hour. The wandering mind goes still,” he said, likening good stories to a drug that “lulls the audience into an authentically altered state of consciousness.”
Matt Costello, author and interactive and creative consultant, has transformed critically acclaimed stories such as Pirates of the Caribbean into games and other new media products. He sums up his philosophy into seven words: play, you, dream, wonder, experiment, others, and risk.
“When you’re that the creative arena,” he advised, “take the judgements out of it. There will be time for judgement and even buts, but not at an early stage.” To effectively execute captivating projects with compelling characters and story lines, open-mindedness, passion, creativity, and experimentation are crucial in the planning process.
Putting oneself and one’s passion into a story is key to success, Costello reasserted. That passion comes through and connects us to the story at our most basic human level, regardless of the format in which we consume it. “Story is natural to a human; it is as biological to us as upright posture and opposable thumbs,” Gottschall said. “It’s as reflexive as breathing or dreaming.” After all, to what can we relate if not a compelling story?