Why the World Needs Storytellers


“There’s only one very good life and that’s the life you know you want and you make it yourself.” – Diana Vreeland (Photo by Cecil Beaton, Diana Vreeland at home in 1954)

If there was one scene that froze in my head from the play “Full Gallop”, which recently had its Manila run at the RCBC Auditorium in Makati, it was this: Cherie Gil as Diana Vreeland, declaring in a haughty flourish–“I adore artifice”. 

Perhaps it echoed to the writer in me, the way I would fantasize writing stories, packaging accounts according to my perspective and, along the way, introducing my own biases and concepts and knowledge (despite how limited they may be, and albeit subconsciously.)

This actually started off as an attempt to review the play, and while I am not the most qualified critic out there, I thought I could say a thing or two about the one-man show (for starters, Cherie is amazing–my theater days have taught me how difficult it is to sustain one’s energy throughout the duration of the play, and we were a huge cast at that! Seeing Cherie draw the audience so magically to her for the one-and-a-half hours she had to perform for “Full Gallop” definitely deserved praise–considering, most especially, how acting in front of the camera is worlds apart from acting on stage.)

However, I ended up being fascinated by the statement, the way how this woman Cherie played so magnificently was so engrossed with the idea of appearances, of beauty, of creating interesting stories to tell her audience, despite how, as one continued watching her character unfold, it became apparent how everything was like that: an artifice. Showmanship. An act that one kept up.

One could take that as a negative thing; however, I saw it as an affirmation of what makes us human. What separates us from other animals is our capacity to imagine, to build things larger than us, to aggrandize and exaggerate and fantasize and idealize. And being in the business of communications, I know very well how a good story is important.

So what I started off as an entry about a play I watched one Friday evening turned out to be this:   

Hire a storyteller. In a time when you can get computers to perform complicated computations and fabricate things in massive factories, you need someone who can imagine things, who can think of fascinating ways to work around problems–something machines cannot do (yet.) 

A storyteller will see your brand’s different facets, read into your company’s mission and vision statements and see a tale unfold, a myth begin. They will weave words and make you larger than life, create dreams about your company that will inspire and enthrall your audience. 

A storyteller sets you apart from the rest. What makes people different from the others is their experiences; a storyteller crafts that experience, brick by brick, laying the foundations for what will define who you ultimately are as a brand. A storyteller will captivate your audience; they will take any boring thing and turn it into something that is indispensable. 

You need storytellers, despite how you think little of them. You may frown upon them, even find them a bit eccentric, dismiss them, laugh at them, ridicule them, say that their work is irrelevant in this day and age, but you must understand that they will make the journey memorable for you. When everyone is just thinking of getting from point A to point B, they will make every step of the way as exhilirating as the promise of getting to your destination. With every iteration of your product, with every upgrade of your service, they will make sense of it for your public. They will help you enlighten your audience. 

The world needs more storytellers. From the time the first people gathered around the fire, sharing their awe and wonder of the vast, great unknown world, to this present where technology brings people closer together, enabling connections in a click of a button, we attest to the truth that what makes us human is our ability to relate, our capability to empathize, to see and feel and hear what the others sense, to join hands with the people around us. 

Gears and cogs churn and they do not mean anything to us; the electric humming and buzzing may mean efficiency but only alienate the human listening to you. What we remember are the stories told to us; we feel them become us, those tales that resonate to our collective human experience, becoming part of our lives, taking us to a level higher than the drudgery of our existence. You can hire all the engineers and accountants and analysts and scientists, but don’t forget the storytellers, the ones who will sell your dream.      

(Of course, while I may not subscribe to everything Diana said, I would have to quote Phineas Black from “Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix” here: “You know, Minister, I disagree with Dumbledore on several points, but you can’t deny, he’s got style.”)

By Evan Tan

Evan Tan is a writer & communications professional from Manila, Philippines.

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