Sometimes I feel like a good story is a rare phenomenon in today’s world of shallow stories meant to fleetingly entertain. We can all agree that no one has to tell you when you’ve stumbled upon a good story. Knowing if a story that has impacted you is instinctual. It’s a gift to be able to work an idea into a well crafted, organized story. But that’s not the only thing that makes a good story, if it were research papers would be more interesting. No, there is something else in a good story. Something that calls to us 20 years after we’ve read or seen it, something that keeps us up at night or keeps the reader thinking for hours. A good story makes us feel something, it doesn’t even have to be a good feeling. Many things I’ve read that still strike me today didn’t have beautiful happy endings. It’s not enough to be simply entertaining or to get a laugh. Laughs can be cheap. The rich stories are the ones that can make people slightly uncomfortable or inspired or even pained. These are emotions that aren’t so easily tapped, they are also the ones that often enact change or cause us to remember the story years later.
I had the good fortune of meeting Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm the spring semester of my junior year in the café in the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. We have a mutual friend that we both thank God for jokingly, but also with a touch of seriousness who introduced us. Riddley came into my life after some very serious personal tragedies. She is a ray of sunshine, and the girl can write. She has this amazing gift of telling a story, whether quite officially in an actual article or late at night while we stay up laughing and joking. She knows exactly how to tell a good story because she is honest. And in her honesty she can make you feel something, she can make you feel like you were right there living that memory. The more emotionally charged a story, the more the audience can connect. The best stories put the audience in the authors’ shoes and make a genuine connection with the message.
This works in movies, books, articles, magazine stories and ads. The best ads out there connect with people. They make you feel something, they connect with everyone. Two of the best examples are: The Dove Real Beauty campaign and the Always “Like a Girl” campaign. These stories will make you cry, and not by accident. The advertisers are calling to a primal instinct we all have inside of us, the need to feel beautiful in our own skin and the right to feel powerful regardless of gender. Because of the connection with these basic ideas that connect with most women, the advertisers are able to tell a good story. Just like Riddley, my dear friend, can make me cry over a simple story about pancakes Dove and Always can use emotions to bind us all together.