Once upon a time…

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What is storytelling?

The concept of storytelling is as old at man. For centuries men have used storytelling as a means to share their experiences with others as well as to explain the word around them. I admit this description was given to me by a history teacher in high school, but it really resonated.
I personally associate an older person such as a parent or grandparent telling a child a story to help teach him or her a lesson. But people tell stories all the time to share experiences and relate to each other or sometimes just to laugh.
The visual that comes to mind for me is typically that of an older person telling a younger person a story or people sitting around in a circle drinking beer and telling stories. Right now I’m picturing the grandfather reading to Ben Savage in princess bride, I saw part of the movie recently so it’s stuck in my head. But that format, old person telling child a tale is often used.
As a child I often asked my parents to “tell me a story” or “read me a story”. As a got older the storytelling became mutual. I came home from school and told my Mother about what happened at school that day in the form of a story. Now I tell stories to my friends over beers. Maybe we don’t call it story time but we certainly do tell each stories about things that happened at work or recent adventures on vacation for example. Additionally, sometimes I need to tell a story at work to explain something in a way that my client or team will understand.
What is digital storytelling?

Digital storytelling is telling a story through a digital medium. The description I provided was primarily based on my experience with oral storytelling but storytelling exists in many formats. While each format is unique as requires certain elements to be effective the basic art or storytelling remains the same on all mediums.
The key messages from the videos that influence the storytelling I do today

Both Glass and Stanton talked about some common elements that are relevant to the stories I tell today.

  1. Timing and inflection are important. The story has to be interesting enough to draw the audience in. Let them know the story will lead someplace. Everything from the first sentence should lead up to a singular goal.
  2. The story should include a mix of anticipation with uncertainty. Hint but don’t give everything away at once. Keep them wanting more.
  3. The audience needs to understand what’s in it for them and why they are there and care. They commonly want to know what’s in it for me. This should ideally be some reaffirm a truth or deepen their understanding. I’d take it another step and say, to solve a problem or teach them something.
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2 thoughts on “Once upon a time…

  1. Do you think of places besides interpersonal, family communications we might tell a story? Don’t answer now, you get to re-answer the question in a few weeks 😉

    Giving the audience a reason to be in it (number 3 on your last paragraph) seems to make sense, but that suggests you might have to always give them some sort of treat to take the story ride. I wonder if there are sometimes we build trust in the source of the story so that we might go on the ride with less promise of fulfillment?

    • Sure, I can think of some other places but I’ll hold the thought for now. Regarding your example, my friends listen to my stories all the time and know they will only get fulfillment about 25% or the time :). I kid, but I see where you are going with it.

      Another less personal example may be reading a book by a favorite author even if the plot does draw you in immediately.

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