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The Familiar and the Strange.

One of the topics I am interested in exploring in 2022 is storytelling. I consume a lot of content{ books, films, TV shows and podcasts} in the hopes of figuring out how good storytellers engage their audience’s attention. The use of ‘the familiar and the strange’ is one way good storytellers do this.

I am a big fan of Quentin Tarantino and love this description of him by David L. Robbins. It captures Tarantino’s use of familiarity and strangeness in his storytelling construction.

“Quentin Tarantino has crafted things out of the quotidian never seen before. His appreciation of the cinema status quo has long been that of an inventor surveying a junkyard. Time and again he’s picked the past apart, reassembled traditions and clichés alike into forms we recognize only in pieces. His movies burn in our eyes strange and familiar, all at once. Tarantino backs into the future.”

 If a story is too strange then the audience will find it incomprehensible but if it is too familiar then it will bore them. It needs a delicate balance of the strange clothed in the familiar so the audience can see something old and new in the story.

Toni Morrison advocated for storytellers “to familiarise the strange and mystify the familiar.” Samuel Johnson also echoes this sentiment: “the two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.” The audience wants strangeness in their stories but they also want familiarity too. The goal of a great story is to be strangely familiar. 

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