Sunday, October 3, 2021

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?


By Claire Booth

I saw Hamilton this week. I’d seen the filmed version of the Broadway show on Disney+ months ago, and listened to the cast recording countless times. But there is, of course, something about seeing it live. For one thing, the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda hits you like a visceral thunderbolt right from the beginning. There’s no distance. Just full sensory perfection in every note and lyric.

And then there’s the storytelling. As the show crescendoed toward the end, I realized one of the reasons it works so well—the same reason that makes good crime fiction.

Every character believes he’s doing the right thing. That his position is the wisest, his goals the most righteous, his outcomes the most necessary for the common good. A hero always has these things. It’s trickier to pull that off with a villain. If, as a storyteller, you succeed (as Miranda did, with no small debt to author Ron Chernow), then you elevate your story from good to great.

Even if you don’t identify with Aaron Burr, you understand him. You might not be the type of person who plays your cards close to the chest, but I’ll bet you know people who do. People who talk less, smile more. It’s relatable conflict that shapes a story, whether it’s a crime fiction novel or the founding of a nation.

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