Today’s Deep Story moment. Congruity vs. Incongruity. People often ask me if there’s any story I cannot tell. I often talk about authenticity, about how my life experience probably isn’t broad enough to tell deep truths from another culture if that’s the focus of a particular story. But there’s another story I often cannot tell.

The True Story. It’s a fact. There are true stories that ALMOST cannot be told. Why? Because truth is stranger than fiction. In the chaos of life, coincidences and congruities occur that are quite literally both true and unbelievable. To tell these true stories is a minefield, because an audience will see those congruities and they will DISBELIEVE the story because of them. Blatant congruity feels manufactured. Fake.

Great storytelling is about creating congruities that are hidden, that sneak up on the audience in a way that in retrospect feels inevitable.

But let’s look at the corollary. Incongruity. If congruity pulls people out of a story because it feels like artifice, then incongruity can do the opposite. It can bring people into a story, by giving them a feeling of reality.

Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes. Incongruity. He’s brave in every other way. Why is that there? Because it makes Indy HUMAN. And by extension it makes the story feel real in a largely unconscious way. It deepens the story experience.

Telling non-fiction stories writers often cut out that which doesn’t directly tell the story they want to tell. This can be a mistake. Find the little incongruities that make it real. The quirks of character, situation, and fate that tell the audience, “surely we couldn’t have made THAT up.”

Categories: WRITING TIPS


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