Truth and fact in stories

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —November 21, 2007
Filed in Business storytelling

I’m often asked, “What happens if the story is untruthful? Wont that skew the participant’s viewpoint?”

Robert McKee makes this paradoxical observation which you might find helpful.

“What happens is fact, not truth. Truth us what we think about what happens.”

McKee, Robert. Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting. New York: ReganBooks, 1997.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

2 Responses to “Truth and fact in stories”

  1. Michael Vanderdonk Says:

    All stories are true. They may not have happened, but all are true.
    It’s difficult for some people to grasp this – and Robert’s quote is a nice definition.

  2. ken Says:

    Perhaps we could we give them an Alethiometer?
    If we do a Koestler style RMBL and marry McKee’s screen-writing to the Adaptation of a book to a topical film (The Golden Compass) could we hit on some recent posts? Story as a kind of social “technology”, creating meaning in a shared “space” (not captured, contained and controlled as dark materials in a dusty old database).
    Lost in translation was a fun film (of course there’s nothing physical to lose – nouns and verbs again 😉 and the translation from Greek (Aletheia) to Latin (Veritas) offers some room to explore the possibility of mis-interpretation – on the certainty of belief in logic, proof-positive, and the needy desire for verification or an open acceptance of future falsification, letting go of old paradigms (to welcome new ones) – of course this may be an example of getting lost in the translation, too, so I’ll just hope my faith in the film becomes a justified true belief 🙂

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