“Breathing” Spaces in Stories

by | Jan 11, 2019 | Change |

“We’ll that was a filler episode.”

That was my response to an episode of “The Marvelous Mrs Maisel” my wife and I watched last night. Nothing much happened in the episode – no thrills, clashes, disasters. Yet, it was needed to move the bigger story along, introduce small cues or hints for future episodes to develop, and also to develop the lead characters.

There’s likely a technical term for this in writing, but for now, I’ve called it ‘filler’, which is not the best name as it doesn’t hint at the critical nature of these episodes or chapters of a story. In many ways, these are moments for us to breathe, for the story to allow its writers and readers/listeners to catch up. They are like a short plateau on the way up the mountain.

Outside of books, TV, films, theatre, we have these ‘filler’ moments or periods often in our lives and in our organisation. And these moments are critical. In fact, just as a writer uses them intentionally in a book or TV series, we should intentionally make them happen when we are going through periods of change in our lives and organisations.

When done well, these moments continue to advance the storyline in lots of small ways, but also allow everyone to catch up, to pause just slightly, before taking the next step forward. These moments allow us to realise a ‘new normal’ is taking shape, is settling in, is becoming ‘us’. And it allows us to become ‘ok’ with this fact.

Breathing spaces or filler episodes don’t last long, but are critical for developing the story we tell ourselves of who we are and what we have become.

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