Normal People is a lesson in authenticity

How a TV show I didn’t even think I’d like left me sleepless, in awe, and desperate to endorse it.

Last night I finished watching a TV series that deeply moved me.

As I lay in bed binge-watching five episodes, Normal People made me ponder the value of relationships in my youth. I thought about times when I have loved people, times when I have failed people and other times when the reverse is true.

Watching the sometimes slow, sometimes flurried meander of Connell and Marianne’s intense relationship made me reflect on my behaviours and those of others. After watching the final episode I couldn’t sleep. It ticked over in my head until exhaustion finally won out.

This morning it was still there and I began to think about the quality of production that left me sleepless.

What was it that separated Normal People from countless other romance series? Authenticity.

why does authenticity matter?

Normal People (originally a novel) was so real, so honest. And brutal at times. It achieved authenticity with the words left unsaid. Also with the complexity of life that weaves through the whole story without being obvious or cliché. And the various subtle and explicit portrayals of abuse and their effects on Marianne’s psyche. Normal People told a story, not a fairytale.

The authenticity of Normal People led me to write this article about a show I didn’t even think I’d like. It led me to seek out the name of the author (Sally Rooney) production company (Element Pictures Group) and the lead actors (Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal), and to wrestle attention away from my kids for long enough to type this out. Authenticity, in short, compels.

So how does this translate into everyday content production?

Writing for customers is not about developing complex characters and weaving an epic narrative. Authenticity in our kind of content production is about putting yourself into your writing. It’s about giving writing your voice, not some severe ‘professional’ version of yourself. It’s about discussing the good with the bad. And it’s about being brave enough to share your genuine thoughts and feelings.

So go be brave. And definitely, definitely watch Normal People.

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