A few years ago, someone told me a theory about stories that has stuck with me ever since. He said that every story in existence fits into one of two buckets: a person goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town. With a little bit of loose interpretation, this holds true.
Think about it. Hansel and Gretel? A person goes on a journey. Rapunzel? A stranger comes to town. Or, we can get symbolic, too: the first Spiderman movie can arguably be that Peter Parker goes on a journey (an emotional and physical transformation) and a stranger comes to town (the Green Goblin). Look in the newspaper, even: COVID is the stranger who keeps coming to town, and Facebook is on a journey to bring Meta to every business.
When I first heard this theory, it was kind of a downer. Really? Of the infinite number of stories told and yet to be told, they all boil down to two? This seemed against the very nature of storytelling. A good storyteller is always looking for new ways to tell a tale, so imagine being told that’s not possible.
But I came to realize that just because a story can fit into one of two buckets doesn’t mean there aren’t new ways to tell them. Because another thing is true of good storytellers: We give in to convention when it serves us and we color outside the lines when it serves our audience.
And, the persistence of rule isn’t all bad. It keeps us from saying “Let’s eat, grandma” instead of “Let’s eat grandma,” after all. Maybe we keep returning to this particular journey-or-stranger convention because it has served us so well. We can color outside the lines through mediums, tones, word choice, and perspectives. We can write about the same journey in a million different ways; if we couldn’t, Barnes and Noble wouldn’t have an entire section devoted to travel writing.
At 2A we are all about adding colorful layers to this (seemingly inescapable) two-bucket theory—and our clients agree. In 2019, a stranger came to town in the form of Microsoft’s new SQL Server, so we turned it into a helpful case study. When the Seattle Public Library launched a summer reading program, we encouraged kids to go on a journey of their own. After AWS traveled along the West Coast to educate IT pros on the benefits of modernizing with containers, we were there to tell the tale.
When a client tells us a story, we think about the best approach to communicating it. For example, does a particular case study work best if told in chronological order (detailing the journey from challenge to solution), or is it better presented as a yin-yang scenario (things weren’t great until this strange new solution came to town, and now look!)
Another way to play around with the two-bucket truth is perspective. In another ebook, we demonstrated the value of a client’s solution by writing about it through the eyes of the user (a software developer) as he took on various challenges at work—a departure from the vendor-centric narrative.
Looking for other creative ways to tell your story? Don’t be a stranger, and come to our town (….or you can just shoot us an email).