Monday, January 16, 2012

Storytelling: Let Me Count the Ways

As writers, when we hear the word “storytelling” we often think about the craft of telling stories through our writing—our books, essays, articles, poetry. We think about structure: beginnings, middles, ends, plot, pacing, characters, etc. But while traveling on Southwest Airlines this past fall I read an article in the airline’s Spirit magazine titled, The Art of Storytelling. In addition to storytelling through writing, the article highlighted other ways stories are told.

It reminded me that we have told the events of life for centuries and, whether real or fictionalized, have done so through methods that ranged from ancient drawings to today’s multi-media technology.

Here are a few of the ways we tell our stories:

Paintings and Photography:

The Norman Rockwell painting at the beginning of this post tells a story of the discoveries of childhood. Photos, such as historical and family photos capture moments and stories of our lives that are passed on to new generations. Photography also tells the story of the world around us.


Since the early 1900s movies have been telling us stories. Once only viewed on movie screens or televisions, movies are now viewed on computers, electronic tablets and mobile phones. Here is a short film titled, “Splitscreen: A Love Story” shot entirely on a mobile phone. The movie won the Nokia Shorts 2011 competition.

Social Media:

With today’s proliferation of social media, people are telling their stories through texting, Facebook, Twitter, and other social internet sites—24/7, all over the world. Social media has served to share, at lightning speed, stories of revolutions and natural disasters, and has opened channels of communication between people of different counties like has never been possible. Families keep in touch with photos and postings on Facebook pages; they Tweet messages to their friends; and they talk face-to-face through Facetime on their iphones. Today, it is easier than ever to communicate and share our stories.

Through Comics, Song Lyrics, and Flow Charts:

Most song lyrics tell a story of some kind—a story of regret, love, or war, for example. Comic strips and flow charts can also tell a story.

Through Book Covers:

A book cover can tell a story even with a simple design.

Through Oral Storytelling and Folklore:

We have all been told stories by family and friends, which we in turn pass along to other family and friends. These stories can stay with us throughout our lifetimes, and can influence how we live and who we become.

Prior to reading the Spirit magazine article, I hadn’t thought of some of these ways as storytelling per se. But the stories of our lives and our dreams can seep through even our most casual conversations. And if you define storytelling as the telling of real or fictitious life events, whatever the form, then we are all storytellers.  And whether we write fiction or nonfiction, these bits and pieces of life communicated can seed and fuel our writing.

Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.
Robert McAfee Brown


elizabethbrinton said...

Each picture you selected was so evocative! In a given day, how many stories do we hear, see, or read? The number must be staggering. Our need for stories is insatiable! That is why it is such a good idea to keep writing. Thanks for pointing this out, Nancy.

Kathy Cooney Dobbs said...

I've always believed every one has a story to tell - thank you for sharing the many different ways our stories can be told.