Telling Better Stories

It is something Jordan Peterson is fond of prescribing as an antidote: tell better stories. What make better stories are worlds apart relative to folks professional storytellers the likes David Mamet, Chuck Palahniuk or Dave Chapelle.

Think of stories like shipping containers that's capable of carrying narratives and value systems into minds that's otherwise inefficiently done via straight talk like this essay.

What values and assertions the author choose to insert is completely arbitrary. Sometimes this isn't even a choice on the author's part, his internalized value system can't help but leak into the page.

We are used to the Campbell's Hero's Journey, it is so dominant it is almost commercially the only game in town. Think of it as a standard sized container, but it is by no means the only size possible for a container.

What religious scholars know very well is the ability for these containers to smuggle ideas in ways that viralize. Stories to them are not by themselves sacred. What's valuable are their philosophies, stories are the vehicle for delivery.

By better stories they mean fictions that demonstrate truths in even more striking manners than what's available from scriptures.

As a psychotechnology, there exist a wedge between admirers of benefits of the tool and auteur of the tool.

For an artist of storytelling, stories are sometimes sacred tools of personal expression and discovery. To have it exploited for marketing is misappropriation of the tool.

Better stories to me is sometimes about uncovering unthoughts. That's very far from creating heroic role models in a standard hero's journey.

The better the storyteller, the more a dilemma emerge if his story should be a vehicle for personal expression or a tool for propaganda of values even he hold dear. A teller that knows his craft may think of stories-as-a-tool is more sacred than the noblest of value systems. For it to be used for "spreading the good words" can feel like betrayal of the craft.

It is interesting that rarely do the best storyteller also happens to be the high priest of the value system on sale.

We are taught how to use languages for stories. There are people who teach engineering of story beats. They even know how to write to market. But they don't teach you what to evoke from people with the stories you ought to tell.