On Storytelling – The Good, The Bad, The Meh, Whatever


Whether you loved it, hated it, didn’t watch it or obsessively tweeted about it, it’s inarguable that Game of Thrones captured the world’s imagination and was, possibly, one of the most phenomenal series in television history.

Not phenomenal as in great, but phenomenal as in – it was a phenomenon – a “remarkable person, thing or event.”

With as few spoilers as possible, the ending of this mega-series was divisive, controversial, challenging, frustrating and many other adjectives as well.

Some loved it, many hated it, a lot of folks were dissatisfied.  The over-arching commentary is that much of what the writers spent nearly a decade developing just didn’t matter.  Threads and storylines we followed for YEARS just . . . kind of fizzled.

As Chuck Wendig wrote in his very excellent blog, “The show didn’t feel like it ended.  The show felt like it stopped.”

There’s always a fundraising lesson to be learned . . .

How do we end our stories?  Do we end them or do we just . . . stop them?

What’s the feeling the donor is left with?

  1. Oh my gosh, that’s such a surprise, I had no idea, I mean I knew it was coming, of course, but I’m still just – wow.  Me?  Little old ME can change the world/end hunger/cure cancer/save a puppy? OR
  2. Yeah, you want my money, bet there’s an envelope/link/invite/something.  I can ignore that.

In her phenomenally beautiful and incredibly difficult stand up special Nanette, (huge massive trigger warnings all over the place – it is funny and beautiful and painful and deals, directly, with some very tough stuff) Hannah Gadsby describes the job of the comedian as to create and release tension.  That’s what a joke is:

Why did the chicken cross the road?
(Why . . wait, I care about this chicken now because it’s been personified and it’s doing something recognizable to me and I’ve crossed roads so I can relate and it’s weird that this chicken is doing this intentionally and oh my gosh I have to know . . . )


To get to the other side!
(Oh, hahaha, of COURSE that’s what it is, it’s so logical and so dumb and I feel foolish but, goodness, that was tense there for a minute because it could have been ANYTHING, *whew*)

Set up. Tension.  Release (punchline)

Our fundraising/donor stories can’t just . . . stop.  We cannot leave threads dangling and ideas unresolved.  There was a POINT to the White Walkers, there was a REASON for the white horse, there was a NEED for Castle Black.

There is a POINT to this character, there is a REASON we’re telling their story, there is a NEED that only YOU can fill . . .

Every piece of our story is part of the whole that drives us to . . . unresolved tension.

BECAUSE . . . the tension will only be released when the donor gives.  Until they make that gift, there will be someone who is hungry, lonely, homeless, in pain . . .

Our job is to create the tension, tell the story . . . and tell the donor how they can create the satisfying, wonderful ending.

Our stories can’t just . . . stop.  We have to create an ending the donor wants and needs to be a part of.

p.s. We actually DO have to end the story . . . it’s when we report back.  That’s the ending EVERYONE wants – and deserves – to read.

p.p.s.  I’ll argue that the dissatisfaction many feel with GoT is that the tension created by a number of storylines and plot devices wasn’t released.  There are lingering questions.  We can’t leave lingering questions in the minds of our donors; there’s too much at stake.



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