I am a voracious consumer of storytelling. Books by the dozen every month, hours of television too inumerous to keep track of, tons of movies. From This is Us to The Expanse, historical romance to lit fic, Lego Batman to Lion, give me a good story and I’m in. It’s more than being a junkie, I draw inspiration from these other great storytellers. And I can’t tell you the number of times I consume some random story that, on the face of things, has nothing in common with a story problem I’m trying to unravel and yet, it sparks a solution for me.
Lately, however, I have one model that I keep returning to: the soundtrack of Hamilton, both the book and lyrics written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. This might not be a big surprise to anyone who knows me since I’m a life-long musical theatre lover. That said, I had a real resistance to this one, because a rap musical about Alexander Hamilton of all people, failed to get me excited. But then my daughter got obsessed and I was subjected to the first (of many) animated videos set to the score.
From the way in which Miranda details character by the very cadence of their rap, to the incredible amount of exposition and world building he so deftly lays down, to the complex character dynamics and billions of feels that this music evokes, all handled with a sly wit, this is storytelling at its finest. It’s even more impressive given the story is told not through dialogue but through song. It’s as pure a musical as things get.
He takes a story spanning a man’s entire life, sets it against this epic backdrop of the American revolution and birth of a nation, and creates this incredible intimacy around the entire thing. Not just with Hamilton’s character either. We feel Burr’s mounting frustrations, Eliza’s heartache, Angelica’s sacrifice. Miranda is a puppet-master, playing this ensemble cast to milk every emotional connection, every complication, every stake out of their lives and yet always with grace and subtlety, never melodrama.
He is a master and I anticipate endless listenings as I humbly learn at his feet.
All this to say: 1) clever bastard. And 2) life is storytelling and the greatest tales can come from the most surprising of places. So don’t discount any of them. (I’m looking at you, everyone who dismisses romance out of hand.)
Until next time,