Watching Shia LaBeouf watching his movies a few weeks ago got me thinking about narrative and just how simple it can be.
I watched him sit for a while. Sitting… sitting… sitting. Pretty dull, right? But I found myself wondering when he gets up to go to the toilet. I mean, he must have done that, right? And while I watched, he started to get up. He’s going! Look! He stood and… twist in the tale, he was just letting someone by. It was a little moment of excitement in something incredibly mundane and it had an unexpected outcome.
Later, he looked wrecked. I could see he was tired. Would I get to see him fall asleep? His eyelids got heavy. Almost… almost… and then he shook it off. Still awake. I found myself watching for a bizarre amount of time to see if he would fall asleep. And I felt a genuine satisfaction when it finally happened.
It reminded of a webcam about a decade ago that was fixed on a dog basket. When you logged in, the dog might be there. Or might not be there. The real excitement was catching the moment when it happened – when the dog got into the basket or left the basket. Seeing that dog get into its basket was a more rare and precious thing than watching Iron Man beat the heck out some bad guy for some reason he probably caused yet again.
Narrative comes in many forms. Expectations and outcomes can make a story. The little surprises, the anticipation and then catching a moment. The stakes only need be as high as the tone you set. And whatever about visual spectacle, we can relate to the little things.
And this is why a YouTuber finding some diamond in Minecraft can be more exciting to kids than your carefully crafted cartoon that took seven drafts and months of production to get right.