When ‘Everyone is a Storyteller’, How Do You Stand Out?

Radical advice from a Hollywood insider

Image © Adam Westbrook

Everyone is a storyteller, we’re told. But in a world where anyone can tell a story, what do you have to do to stand out? The answer, according to Hollywood story consultant Bobette Buster, is to find the bravery to speak the Truth.

We all recognise a good story well-told but that doesn’t mean we’re all good storytellers.

“Ralph Waldo Emerson said that people tell you what’s on their mind within two or three sentences,” she tells me from London. “They don’t realise it, but whatever’s happening that’s really important will bubble up pretty quickly. So if I just engage someone and just listen to how they’re framing what they’re talking about, I can pretty much, within two or three questions, get them to reveal what’s really on their mind.”

Do / Story: How to Tell Your Story so the World Listens

“I really feel that we’re in the age of storytelling and that everyone should recognise that they’re a storyteller and that there are principles to good storytelling.”

“Life is a continuum of threshold experiences where you could make a change in your life or not, or you’re facing a decision to make, or not. Storytelling is about raising an awareness of that ‘aha!’ moment. Obviously when you experience an accident, or a juicy bit of gossip that’s an ‘aha!’ moment, you go ‘oh my God, this thing happened to me, let me tell you about it!’ Or if you have a broken heart, whatever it is, that’s an ‘aha!’ moment: you feel raw, you feel alive you want to share that with someone.

The glue to being human

And what is Bobette’s own story? After a childhood in Kentucky she moved to Hollywood to learn the craft of script development. In an industry flooded with thousands of scripts each year, her talents are sought after, and she has been brought into guide story artists at Pixar, Disney and 20th Century Fox among others.

Confronting fear

“The journey of storytelling is the ultimate journey of connection, our need to have someone hear us and say ‘Oh I understand’ or comfort or to provide an insight. It is the glue to being human” she says.

Image © Bobette Buster

“There’s this snarky attitude of being super hip that can ultimately be degrading and it makes people less brave about telling their own stories. So the fresh and audacious storyteller who speaks their own truth will pop out, but you have to be willing to break the rules around you to be able to do that.”

“I think you have to believe that what you have to say is something the world needs. That your truth is as important as anyone else’s and that your point of view is necessary. To fearlessly say the thing that will make people uncomfortable. Now that will sometimes be something provocative and controversial but sometimes you make people uncomfortable by speaking a kindness, and I would say what you want to do is be the irritant.

What happens if you have nothing to say?

Which leads to the difficult question: what happens if you have nothing to say?

Video artist working at The New York Times. I write a weekly newsletter about visual storytelling and creativity. https://adamwestbrook.substack.com/

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