Story Is All Business
Jeff Bezos was roasted the other night at the Oscars; I’m sure he could take it. He’s becoming quite the player in streaming content in addition to his retail business. I'm a fan of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” but I doubt he has much to do with that side of his narrative-focused business. That said, I do like his unique use of story for his business; it’s something I also employ.
As legend has it, a few years ago he asked his leadership team to stop using PowerPoint and the accompanying bullet points for internal presentations. He insisted on proposals using prose – namely a string of well-written paragraphs to tell a story. It’s an ideal way to communicate. I couldn’t agree more.
Writing stories – and I’ve written in almost every genre for art and commerce – is certainly a creative exercise and it takes time. But if you trust the process, you often find that your story takes you to places and situations that you didn’t anticipate, which is often a good result. But it is also a practical exercise. Your characters or ideas are forced to work through all types of obstacles by connecting dots and using logic – and heart – to win in the end. And you often uncover an even more complex victory than you imagined.
Bullet points have their place, but they're typically not as thoughtful or integrated. Prose is literally more connected and can convey more sophisticated ideas in seemingly simple terms. It does take 3, 5, or 10 drafts to make the language seem simple, and for the ideas to be exposed and easy to absorb, but if you put in the time, you'll get there. (See Hemingway regarding brevity.) Complexity made simple is the aim of the writer, the teacher, the filmmaker, and, yes, the marketer.
I often include imagery in my proposals, but I believe in using prose at all stages of story or even strategic development. It leads to richer, deeper, and more meaningful results. And, in the end, that's what we're all seeking.
Now I wish I could reach Jeff Bezos and ask him about the delays in the shipping of my just-published first novel “Zeus Rising.”