I have before me a brochure I picked up in achingly hip Copenhagen during the recent Horberry family holiday. It’s for a posh furniture store called Bolia and describes itself as 62 stories on how we live – the reason it caught my eye in the first place. Imagine my disappointment when instead of the aforementioned narratives I found it stuffed with pointless and clearly fictional anecdotes that are trying far to hard too be edgy, amusing or otherwise out there.
87 year old Gertie enjoyed her newfound love: reading erotic literature. She just wished she’d started earlier.
Charlie decided not to invite Sarah to his party. She decided to crash it anyway, by driving her car through his front door.
All are accompanied by artfully styled pics of desirable Nordic furniture with nary a human in sight. For example:
For some reason all this made me think, “God I’m sick of stories”. Not the form itself you understand, just the senseless shoehorning to the word into every conceivable item of comms, regardless of its relevance or worth. You must have noticed this phenomenon yourself. I’d say we’ve reached ‘peak story’ if it wasn’t such a nauseating phrase.
If stories are natural engagement engines – and they are – then Bolia’s excrescence has exactly the opposite effect, turning me off rather than on. Obviously it doesn’t have to be this way. The trick is to make a story vivid enough to embed itself in its readers’ imagination, and grounded enough to touch on or illuminate some universal human truth. That’s where Bolia goes wrong – their ‘stories’ are one-dimensional fictions that manage to reduce rather enhance their brand’s authenticity.
Don’t get me wrong. In the right context stories are a wonderful tool, not least because they’re fun and functional at the same time. Fun because they’re naturally appealing and we’re primed from birth to accept information presented in narrative form; functional because they’re powerful explaining tools that enable us to describe the who, what, where, when, why and how of a subject without seeming to. I suppose my point is I’m fed up with every piece of non-factual text being described as a story – it’s lazy and has diminished the impact a genuine story can achieve. I daresay I’ll get over it.
Read Me: Ten Lessons for Writing Great Copy by Roger Horberry & Gyles Lingwood is out now, published by Laurence King. There’s even a chapter on storytelling. Find the authors on Twitter at @RogerHorberry and @GylesLingwood, as well as @ReadMeLKP.