Stories are basic to what we tell one another since we could put words together. But in this communications age, Les Bloch says it takes extra effort to know just what the story says.
I got my DNA test back. No shocking news. I don’t have 35 brothers and sisters from an unscrupulous sperm-donating doctor. My parents’ stories were confirmed: Dad, Ukrainian-Jewish, Mom, Scottish and English. I’d been told a story about my past that turned out to be free of spin.
I, like everyone who listens to radio and TV, have heard thousands of stories, some fact and some fiction. Stories have always been with us, and now the delivery system has been refined via internet and cable to upload efficiently into our brains. Now more than ever, we’re dealing with stories and spin. And as every writer knows – the spin, the angle, is the key to getting the reader to buy it.
Inevitably, the utility of story to move people’s hearts and minds becomes a tool too sweet to resist. Enter the dictators. Their clumsy hands cut the story up, leaving out all the bad parts, portraying themselves as the heroes. Most Americans know in their hearts that we’re all being fed an angle, even as we watch our favorite us-against-them news station.
Luckily, I don’t live in North Korea. I get to hear all the stories, all the angles. Stories are more plentiful than ever in a web world of deep fakes and Netflix docudramas. I’m learning to absorb and process what these writers are penning. What I learn from observing a manipulative dictator waging war against his neighbors is a story brought into clearer focus. When I see the strings of the puppet master and identify his writer’s embellishments, it makes me wiser. There will always be stories, each with its own spin, its own angle. I’m learning to edit, toss out the ridiculous storylines, imagine the motives behind them and carefully form them into something close to reality.