The Yin and Yang of Storytelling

I was watching The Late Show with Stephen Colbert the other night when the actor Paul Dano was being interviewed. Stephen Colbert talked about how “intimate” his acting roles tend to be, and it got me thinking about writing (of course). Intimacy. Privacy. Vulnerability. It’s what we all resist sharing, and yet it’s what we all seek in other people.

indexThose who read romance novels want to know about the intrigue that goes on between people, but more than anything, they are looking for those moments of vulnerability when a character reveals something very private about themselves. Women (and some men, I will have to admit) tend to latch onto relationship stories for this very reason. It’s all about intimacy.

whAt the same time, Robert McKee writes in Story that the reason why people go to the theater (either the stage or movies) is to see something that they wouldn’t ordinarily see. They are looking for spectacle.  What’s a spectacle? Ask Michael Bay and he would say it’s probably a giant spaceship or robot exploding, or the White House exploding, or Mount Rushmore exploding, or…you get the picture. But spectacle doesn’t have to be that earth shattering an event. It just has to be earth shattering to one person. It could be a devastating event in one person’s life, like a suicide, or, on the flip side, a dramatic rescue. Like I said, it’s just something that you wouldn’t expect to see in real life.

This generally the difference (and I get into generalizations carefully here!) between movies and books written for men and books and movies made for women. Women are looking for that intimacy, men are looking for spectacle. That’s a huge generalization, I know, and there are huge exceptions to that. My daughter looked forward and went with me to the last X-men movie, which I was really surprised about. And I have been known to watch a tear jerker or two.

But the point is, both have their appeal. Both are something that people are looking for, and neither should be denied as inappropriate or beneath the dignity of a “proper” writer. And I would even suggest that a great writer might consider including both in their future projects.

Think about it.