the Art of Storytelling as told by jeremy torr in a short interview with bolt.
Jeremy Torr shares his story with us on storytelling and what it takes to be a good writer. His secret to success: believability.
How did you enter the industry?
In 1985, I had a small company building bicycles in England. I couldn’t afford any advertising so I thought: I gotta get some publicity out.
So I wrote to a lot of bicycle magazines and asked, “Hey do you want some interesting stories about how to build a bicycle?” And a couple of them responded, “Yeah that’s great, we’ve got nobody doing that.”
So yeah, I just did more and more and I realised that it’s much easier and more pleasant earning a living writing about stuff than actually doing it. I kind of just fell into it really.
Quirky writing habits?
If I’ve written it, I don’t change it. I never do redrafts. I just do one and that’s it. Because I’ve done quite a bit of editing as well, you can tell as an editor if somebody’s done lots of editing and rewriting because it doesn’t have flow to it.
It doesn’t have a kind of a natural readable sequence to it. If you keep that, it makes whatever it is you’re writing much more interesting and easy to read.
Some of the best audio I think is on the BBC podcasts. They have a series called From Our Own Correspondent which have this natural flow. Some of those are just so good, brilliant. They’ve got stories like…for example, “I Went to the Man Who Ironed Shirts for a Living”. Yeah! Something like that. But it’s not mundane if it’s well delivered though.
What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about storytelling, that isn’t so?
That’s easy. They think they have to write in a certain way. They think they have to write properly. And that kills the story because if you put it into correct English and start creating sentences and start putting big words in, it sounds crap.
Hardest thing you’ve encountered while writing?
That’s a really cliche question. I don’t think there was anything particularly hard because you can always find an angle on something to write about. Even if you think you’re not gonna get something out of it to begin with.
I don’t really think anything is hard, I’ve always enjoyed everything. I’ve been lucky.
How do you find an angle?
Just experience I guess. It’s experience but it’s also trying to think about the people that are going to consume this. What are they gonna be interested in.
If you don’t do that then if the consumer is not interested in it then you might as well go down the pub and have a beer or something, complete waste of time.
What does it take for a story to stand out?
This is a difficult one isn’t it? I don’t think you can say it’s this, it’s that, it’s the other. Sometimes people write a brilliant story and never write anything good again.
I can’t remember the name of the guy that wrote uh… The Bridges of Madison County. Absolutely fantastic book, but he tried again and never did anything at all. It’s just a really nice love story. The writing itself doesn’t have to be good for it to be a good story. The believability of it is what’s important.
If there was one thing you would not want to write about, what would it be and why?
I don’t think there’d be anything that I wouldn’t want to write about. I think there are some things you need to be mindful of and how that would upset other people if you write about it, it’s only fair.
Having worked across 3 different continents and being an expert in your field, are there any differences in the way people receive or write content/tell stories?
Biggest difference would not be quite so much the content, but the way the journalists work is very different.
Australia is quite aggressive. They want facts and they want it quick. They don’t want you to waste their time.
England is quite polite but sometimes you don’t always get the truth, people are always polite but at the same time are not telling you things.
In Asia, generally people don’t like troubling somebody and don’t like to be too confrontational. In terms of the output in Asia, people just want what it is; the effect on the share price and what new technology can do for them. Whereas in Australia, it’s a lot more about the personality and the people who’ve invented it.
If you weren’t in this business at all what would you be doing?
Probably making bicycles.
What advice would you give to a young writer?
To try and write the way you want to write. Don’t write the way somebody else is telling you to write. Because you always write more engagingly when you’re writing what you’re thinking. If you try and do it the proper way, it always looks and sounds stiff. Put some of yourself into it.
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