Telling Stories

Asked about the qualities you need to tell stories well, M Night Shyamalan says:

I think about that question a lot. I was teaching at an inner school in Philadelphia; it was a charity thing, an English class for kids, and I sat them down and I told them I have a mystery for you.

I am probably the highest paid writer in the world, and I wasn’t even the smartest kid in my class, and I am not the strongest writer, and I had no connections anywhere in cinema, so how do you explain that? Other than luck, put luck aside for a second, so what’s going on?

Some of the kids had interesting answers like determination, belief system, all that stuff for sure. I have an answer—I am more me than they are them. The point is, all your strengths and all your limitations, they are all part of who you are, and you should not try to be anything else. When a person speaks without self consciousness about who they are, it shines right through, it pops like a light. You are not trying to be funnier than you can be or cooler than you actually are, you are trying to be yourself, and when you do that, you erupt. The moment you try to fit in, you go into the general pot, and then it is entirely about luck, because you are in the same pot with everyone else.

That’s a smart answer, but I’m not sure it explains much. After all, “being me” works when that “me” is distinctive and original and interesting—but for many of us, that may not be the case. After all, the general pot is the general pot for a reason.

The Shyamalan quote, by the way, is taken from a transcript of a long media interaction that Prem Panicker uploaded on his blog. Much fun.