Saturday, 16 July 2011

People and Stories

The big scandal this week is phone hacking. It would appear news hounds will do anything to get juicy morsels of information to fill their newspapers, and there's probably nothing new about that.

So why are we so fascinated with other people's lives? Every story we read, every movie we watch, every bit of gossip we hear is about people and how they manage their lives. That's what keeps the newspapers filled - and why hacks tap phones. The more private we try to be, the more desperate they are to get the dirty on us. Because that's what sells. By why the fascination?

Some years back television went through a sea change. Instead of actors or presenters taking centre stage the docu-drama or fly-on-the-wall became fashionable. A whole raft of programmes filled the schedules, mostly following the same format: camera crew follows a group of ordinary, but generally larger than life, people going about their every day life. Edit the footage down to a thirty minute slot, containing the requisite moments of melodrama, and Bob's your uncle. Because people are interested in people.

And that's why it's the people in your story who are the single most important element in it. If readers don't buy them as real you're sunk.

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