’m a storyteller. I love stories, how they are put together, how points are emphasized, how they wind around to a conclusion. But I noticed a strange thing the other day in the office.
I used to work with middle-aged Indian women and men of roughly my age. I could tell stories and outside of some of my creative uses of language, everything was fine. But most of those folks are gone now and in their places we have a wave of millennials. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not here to bust them along the typical lines. They live in a different world than I grew up in and hence they are different people. Yet I didn’t know how different they were until I told stories and came to a realization.
All that scene-setting and plot creation, all that is lost to them. They move faster, jumping to the point. They are it in, not for the communal spirit of the story itself but for the punchline. This is even evident in their misuse of “Irony”. Irony is defined as the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect. It means that you have to use language to set up one case, then topple it with another. It does not mean you are mocking generations past by lampooning them. But the setup for true irony takes time, and millennials want it now. So they toss out an instantaneous image of the past world, something that can be accomplished in a second or two. It might be funny, but it isn’t ironic.
To my point, for their own reasons, under their own environments and mental conditioning, they don’t have the patience for a story. It doesn’t mean the same thing that it does to me. But that means that, as a story-teller, trying to get in touch with the market, I may start need to consider this. Just as we’ve seen internet shockwaves go through the publishing field, we might start seeing changes to our stories. Perhaps, as authors, we need to consider shorter chapters, more catch-up phrasing (i.e. reintroducing characters for the put-it-down-pick-it-up readership), tighter descriptions and less-verbose styles. Just as the writers of the 1700s and 1800s could gently introduce characters over hundreds of pages, now we have possibly a page, maybe even a paragraph, to do so. Captain Ahab thundered and quaked. Now, maybe, he needs to make a mission-statement, getting down to whale-hunting in earnest with full CGI backgrounds.
This might not be the sort of world we writers wish to be in. We want audience and elbow room, and many, many blank pages to fill. But if we’re going to be popular, if we’re going to match word vs need, possibly we’ll have to change our styles to match our writer styles to reader styles.