In my last post I shared some thoughts on the importance of earning the trust of your audience, a crucial thing for any creator and storyteller. If your audience does not trust you, or if you betray their trust, you will either be largely ignored or face a world of hurt at some point.
This, though, is a coin with two distinct sides. See – you need to get your audience to trust you. But at the same time, you would do well to trust your audience in return. And no, unlike you, they don’t have to do much anything to earn your trust. If you want to fully explore and exploit the possibilities of an engaged and interacting audience, trust is a must.
Now, the knee-jerk reaction to this (and I will readily admit, my gut feeling) is a resounding ”NO WAY!”. I was raised in the traditional broadcast and publishing media landscape, where I was akin to the translator / information professional / gatekeeper / entertainer between the audience on the one hand, and content, artists, music, footage, you name it, on the other hand. Back then, you produced something, you broadcast it, waited for the accolades or the hate, and moved on. Granted, in radio I found it exciting to have the live and direct contact with the audience, where just about anything could happen. This was, however, still framed by the context of the show, and seldom could the audience in any way, shape or form run away with the narrative.
Today though, I can think of few more exciting things than an immersed and engaged audience doing away with something I’ve created and letting that narrative fuel their own creative flows and their own stories. Nothing, as a storyteller, could make me happier.
But this, again, takes me back to my earlier point – the one about trust. We need to bravely let go of our control of our stories – or at least of the worlds of our stories. We need to trust the people charmed by our tales, and their inert abilities to nurture our worlds and let them grow, while feeding them through stories and creations of their own.
But wait! you cry. What if they can’t be trusted? What if they distort and warp our stories into something horrible? What if I lose control totally, and never can get it back?
That is a risk we have to take. But if a story of yours only invokes derision, or even worse, indifference, is that really a story you want to tell? And if it invokes laughter, or compassion, or excitement, or sadness, but also a good amount of derision and frowns, all the better! You can watch stories and arguments rise from the interaction of the different camps that can give fodder to any number of future stories… and, as with humanity in general, over the long run, the constructive side will prevail, and you will be all the happier for it.
Earn your audience’s trust. But don’t forget to trust them in return!