“It was a dark and stormy night.”
Beginning with Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s “Paul Clifford,” this opening phrase has become synonymous with epic stories. Bulwer-Lytton took it in one direction, and Madeleine L’Engle took it in another 130 years later with “A Wrinkle in Time.” Even Peanuts’ beloved and multi-talented beagle, Snoopy, has made several attempts at getting a novel published, always beginning with that phrase.
Storytelling is seen as an individual and very personal effort. Each of us brings a cultural background, a set of experiences and a point of view that color how we tell tales. But from a communications perspective, aren’t there times when we need to collaborate on a story? The upcoming presidential election is a perfect example. Each party is struggling to compile its own clear, persuasive story from many contributors, including media, advocates and supporters. Cause leaders often struggle with storytelling. Even with a common goal, the route to get there requires input from varied — and often disparate — sources.
As Halloween, the ultimate dark and stormy night, approaches, the staff at Vanguard thought it would be interesting to collaborate on our own scary story. Over the next week, we will create a story together, line by line. Through a series of tweets, each of us will take a turn or two at building on to a collaborative holiday story. What will we learn from this? Honestly, we’re not sure. But it might give us some insight into the difficulties of building a public discourse with many strong and disparate perspectives.
To keep an eye on our storytelling progress, follow @VanComm beginning today, along with the hashtag #vctag. We’ll collaborate on our story throughout the week, and then post a Storify with our results next Monday, October 29. With luck, we’ll create a story worth reading every Halloween. Or, we’ll end up with a lot of nonsense, i.e., dark and stormy pickles.
Either way, we expect it to be a lot of fun.