Storytelling Memes

The mysterious S. and I are both interested in storytelling and narrative. I’ve been coming to the realization that this figures in strongly in the way I want to express myself professionally. And now that I’ve had this realization, I’m seeing the storytelling meme everywhere I look!


p>Storytelling is the method through which we communicate our imagination, our vision, and our feelings. Through stories we can relate people, ideas, time, and place in a cohesive narrative; otherwise, we just have a collection of uncorrelated facts: impressive and seemingly wise on the surface, but in actuality far too ambiguous to serve as a useful guide.

Here’s an illustrative excerpt from Joel Spolsky’s Introduction for Best of Sofware Writing, regarding a book for which he was asked to write a glowing recommendation:

The book started out looking promising. It filled a real need. I remember several times standing in bookstores desperately trying to find a book on the very topic, but there was nothing to be found. So I started reading the manuscript full of high hopes. Bleah. I could hardly bear to keep reading. The author kept saying smart and interesting things. He even wrote clearly. But the book was thoroughly, completely, boring. And worse, it was completely unconvincing. The author had violated the number one rule of good writing, the “Show, don’t tell” rule. There was not a single story in the book. It was chock full of sentences like “A good team leader provides inspiration by setting a positive example.” What the eff? Pay attention. Here’s the way to say “a good team leader provides inspiration by setting a positive example” without putting your audience to sleep:

Go read the rest of the introduction to see how it ends.