The Truth of the Story
Dean Rotbart says that each of us is three different people.
The first of these three is the person you see when you look in the mirror.
The second is the person that other people see when they look at you.
The third is the real you.
“Know something, sugar? Stories only happen to people who can tell them.” – Allan Gurganus
Gurganus is right. The truth happens to everyone, but stories only happen to people who can tell them.
Professor Sexton recently told me about a new definition of reality known as the antenarrative: Ante: prior to, Narrative: the story.
It reminds me of that third person spoken of by Rotbart.
The antenarrative is the story that no one can tell. Not even the people who were there. It is chaotic, without logic and disconnected. It is the way things actually happen. It is the truest truth of what attracted you to your life partner; the truest truth of how you chose your career, what you believe about the future and why you quit going to church.
Narrative, on the other hand, is crafted in retrospect as a storyteller assembles selected puzzle pieces in 20/20 hindsight; the beginning, middle and end of the tale are now a foregone conclusion. If the storyteller chooses skillfully and arranges the antenarrative pieces artfully, his story will sparkle with fairy dust. If the storyteller chooses predictably and organizes the pieces chronologically, the story will smell like cat food.
Antenarrative happens to everyone. But stories only happen to people who can tell them. Ernest Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize for making his finely-crafted fiction feel as unvarnished and true as antenarrative. In speaking of The Old Man and the Sea, he said,
“In stating as fully as I could how things really were, it was often very difficult and I wrote awkwardly and the awkwardness is what they called my style. All mistakes and awkwardnesses are easy to see, and they called it style.”
Another Pulitzer-winning book, Founding Brothers, is an attempt to look at selected moments of American history through that same crystal-hard lens. The American antenarrative of 1776 is that those colonists loyal to Britain reviled the conspirators who bound themselves together in a Declaration of Independence. The conspirators were plagued by doubts, short of cash and argued constantly as the success of their rebellion was in constant jeopardy. They never thought of themselves as “The Founding Fathers,” nor did they consider the survival of the American nation to be inevitable.
But you and I live under the curse of post facto knowledge,
“But of course the American Revolution had to succeed because, well, it just had to.”
We never consider how this landmass called 21st century America might easily have remained an extension of England.
Post facto knowledge is always troublesome, but especially in the writing of ads.
Facts are not necessarily believable just because they are true.
Facts are not necessarily interesting just because they are true.
Facts are not necessarily relevant just because they are true.
This is why good ad writers never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.
Harley Davidson – American by Birth. Rebel by Choice.
Volkswagen – Think Small.
Walmart – Save Money. Live Better.
Adidas – Impossible is Nothing.
Levis – Quality never goes out of style.
IBM – Solutions for a smart planet.
Research the antenarrative of any of these brands and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Now let’s get back to Rotbart’s assertion. Is there a chance that
1. the company you see when you look at your company
is different than
2. the company other people see when they look at your company?
And could it be that
3. the happiest company for both you and they might be hiding in the heart of an ad man?
Come to Wizard Academy and we’ll do our best to find your happy company.
Let it out.
Let it breathe.
Let it live.
Roy H. Williams
PS – The Facts are often authoritarian and combative, thus the common descriptive, “cold, hard…” but in the words of Jeff Sexton, “A story doesn’t force people to follow — it invites them on a journey.”