Friday, 14 December 2012

Telling the truth with lies - PR

First up: my cousin is getting married in January. Both my father and my brother will be in Dubai, so I will be escorting my sisters and my mother to a wedding. If I escape with my sanity intact, there may indeed be a God, and a merciful one at that. It sounds like it's going to be rushed and hectic, which I suspect all weddings are whether preparations started a year or a month ago.
It's also a very romantic story, and romantic stories - really, any stories - make me very happy. Weddings especially though. Love is a tricky thing to pin down, and if two people can find it with each other, then celebrations are certainly in order. Though I'm still not sure about the (agreed, symbolic) "giving away" of the bride, harkening back to a time when girls were so useless that you had to literally give them away, along with a gift of money. We certainly don't make the bride's father pay a huge sum of money so that we can take her off his hands.

By, say, making him pay for the wedding itself.

That definitely does not happen any more.

The problem with changing this idea is that it's a tradition, and tradition just means "story that people have told for a long time." Stories have power; we learn that from the cradle. There are thousands of fantastic articles detailing the power stories have and, although I'd cheerfully advocate reading all of them, why not start with a story about the power of stories. It's complex, but trust me. Witches Abroad, by Terry Pratchett, is brilliant and although it's fictional, so are a lot of stories. It doesn't make them less real, just less true.

Not untrue, though. All stories need a kernel of truth. You can wrap that kernel in so many lies that it takes another form - racism is the truth "I'm scared of change" wrapped up in social, economic and political language until it becomes almost acceptable. The message of the story is formed of the lies with which you wrap your truth.

And yes, of course you can tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, but the fact is that's boring. Any omission might be considered a lie, and a story with no omissions is dull. As an example, 24 is well-known for the fact that Jack Bauer has never, ever gone to the toilet. Ever. Why? Because that's dull. It's a necessary lie to tell the truth that we really like Jack Bauer being Jack Bauer, and he loses a portion of that character when he has to take a toilet break. It's one of the few times when dynamic action is really frowned upon.

I mean you don't actually look and frown, because that might be weirder. Etiquette in the gents' is a hydra of potential slip-ups. (Pun intended and immediately regretted.)

In short, if you're telling a story, first you need to find your truth. And if you want to tell the world something true, then you might need to find yourself a storyteller.