Storytelling: Brief Summary
Storytelling is the activity of sharing a story or narrative with other people, either through speech, written words, or a series of images. These stories can be based on real events, or can be imagined and essentially serve as a report of events that are connected in some way. The practice of storytelling can be traced back to ancient human cultures, meaning it actually pre-dates the creation of the written word.
Traditionally, storytelling was used as a means of entertainment, as well as a way to instil beliefs and values, or teach moral lessons to readers or listeners. In the modern world, however, storytelling can be used to relay almost any information and storytellers help to make this information more valuable, memorable and meaningful. As a result, the art of storytelling is used in fields like education, the press, advertising and content marketing.
Storytelling: Detailed Summary
Storytelling describes the process of imparting information, knowledge, wisdom or ideas through a narrative, rather than by presenting pure facts and statistics, or by openly sharing thoughts or opinions. The story may be a re-telling of real events, an entirely imagined sequence of events, or can be loosely based on real events, with elements of exaggeration, embellishment or the creative distortion of facts.
Traditional forms of storytelling include fairytales, myths, legends and fables, with storytellers using these techniques to provide readers or listeners with life lessons or ‘morals’. Over the years, however, the practice of storytelling has evolved dramatically and it is now a feature of novels, poetry, plays, television shows, radio shows and films. Moreover, storytelling is used by the media, by politicians and by businesses to present information.
One of the major advantages of storytelling over a more pure presentation of facts is the way it can make information seem more meaningful and memorable. This, in turn, makes it more likely that the audience will be able to retain the information. In addition, storytelling can also be used to make complex ideas seem easier to understand, giving the audience clear frames of reference. It can, therefore, be seen as a simplification method.
Within businesses, storytelling may be used to help with things like the training of employees, or with the presentation of important business information, because it offers the potential to improve knowledge retention. Furthermore, it may be used within traditional advertising, or as part of a digital content or search marketing strategy, helping to make the online content published more interesting, relevant and memorable to its readers.
Businesses may also use storytelling to explain their own company history, or in material like white papers, e-books and case studies, in order to better explain the value of their offerings. Moreover, within the journalism community, storytelling can be used to make an opinion piece seem more evidence-based, or to make factual analysis more entertaining and less dense, so that it can be more easily consumed.
The use of storytelling within childhood and adult education is similar to within business, making information more accessible. Of course, storytelling also has a more basic function as pure entertainment. It is a technique that can be used within the production of creative works, including novels, articles, plays, poetry and even music, in order to make the finished product more enjoyable, more relatable and more culturally relevant.
Within written storytelling, in particular, the choice of narrator is a crucial decision and can have a huge impact upon the way the story is told. The two most obvious choices are a first-person narrator, where the story is told from the perspective of the narrator, or a third-person perspective, where the narrator is distanced from the events and tells them from an almost omniscient perspective. The narrator may, or may not, be a character within the story.
Common Storytelling Elements
Theoretically, there are very few strict rules governing storytelling. Indeed, strictly speaking, any report of events, either real or fictitious, that follows a basic narrative structure can be considered a piece of storytelling. Nevertheless, there are a number of storytelling elements that can be found in most, if not all, forms of storytelling, as well as a number of elements that are recommended when creating a story. These include:
- Characters – The people described within the story. These may be real or invented. Typically, stories will include at least one protagonist, who is central to the plot. They may also include an antagonist, or several antagonists.
- An Event or Conflict – The main ‘thing’ that occurs in the story. It may be a problem that needs to be solved, a quest that must be undertaken, a situation that needs to be dealt with, or a struggle that must be overcome.
- The Outcome – The end of the story. In many cases, this will focus on how the problem or situation was solved. However, some stories end without a clear resolution to the main problem or situation encountered.
- A Moral or Conclusion – The message that the reader or listener is supposed to take away from the story. This may be overtly told to the audience, or subtly embedded within the story for audiences to search for themselves.
Many stories stick at least loosely to a basic three act format, where the first act sets the scene and describes the characters, the second scene details the problem or situation that must be resolved and the third scene addresses the eventual outcome. With that being said, some narratives deviate from this quite significantly and the events may not be told to the audience in chronological order, or even by one consistent narrative voice.
Different Storytelling Formats
As a concept, storytelling can exist or occur in a number of different situations. This means it can be either formal or informal and can be carefully measured, following a clear narrative structure, or can be much more relaxed and free-flowing. For example, a person may use storytelling as a technique when gossiping to a friend, while an author may use more deliberate storytelling to deliver a wider message.
It is also important to understand that storytelling can take completely different forms and formats. While spoken word and written prose storytelling are the two most common of these, storytelling can also occur through mediums like music, verse and images. For example, animations, which are created through a sequence of images, may tell a story, or a song may follow a clear narrative structure.
Storytelling is a method of relaying information or imparting knowledge through a narrative. As a technique, it pre-dates the invention of writing and was originally used to entertain, share important values and teach lessons. Today, it is used in a wide variety of different fields, including marketing, corporate training, journalism and education, in order to make information more accessible, memorable, relevant and easy to understand.
The technique can be utilised by a storyteller in order to describe either real or fictional events, and can be employed through writing, speech, images, or a combination of those things. Common elements that appear in the majority of different forms of storytelling include characters, a situation, event or conflict, a resolution and a message or moral that should be taken away from the story by the audience.