Storytelling and Time Travel

Posted: October 30, 2013 in Nanowrimo
Tags: , , , ,

As we approach November and the writing frenzy is in the air, one key question comes to my mind: What is storytelling?  I am working through a wonderful MOOC on the topic called The Future of Storytelling.  My initial thought is that stories are a diversion.  They divert us from the difficulties and boredoms of everyday life.  They let us lead exciting or tragic or romantic or dangerous lives from the safety and comfort of our bedrooms.  There is nothing wrong with storytelling as diversion; it can be a noble end in and of itself.  But storytelling is more than that.

The next definition I came up with, the one that I am sticking with, is that storytelling is about connecting.  Through stories we can connect with people across time and distance that we will never meet in person.  Many times we can’t meet the people we connect with because they are long dead and buried.  Short of the invention of time travel, I will never meet anyone from the cultures that created Beowulf or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, but I can hear their tales with them, become an extended part of their culture centuries after the original tales were first told.  Now if the Doctor shows up, I might just insist that he take me to see these people, but, sadly, that is rather unlikely.  I will also make him take me meet Tolkien, but I’d just become a puddle of fangirl goo if I got to meet the Professor and I’d never get to ask him burning questions such as “Why is Tom Bombadil mysteriously silent in the events of the Hobbit?  I should think he would be quite interested in those goings-on as well and we all know Bombadil existed in your head since at least 1934.”

But anyway, back to the definition of storytelling.  Modern storytelling is a way of connecting with people all across the globe.  The soaring of the Internet has made that more possible today than at any time in the past.  We all tell a story online.  Facebook is essentially you telling the story of your life.  Some people tell their stories in far greater detail than necessary, but it is always a story.

For a story-writer, one who crafts fictional worlds populated with fictional people, storytelling has many connections.  It connects us with the outside.  Writers tend to be considered introverts.  Many of us (myself included) prefer the company of a computer/notebook and a good novel to the company of flesh-and-blood people much of the time.  It connects us with past, following a tradition handed down through countless generations.  Methods may change, but there have always been storytellers, from ancient bards and poets all the way to the modern blogger and self-published writer.  Storytelling connects us with our inner child.  Children tell stories to learn and explore.  Most of us lose that as we get older, but the writer retains or regains that instinctual need to create and explore vast new worlds that exist only in their own imagination.

Storytelling also connects the storyteller with himself.  Writing is therapeutic for many.  Oft times, at least for me, emotions and longings stay locked deep within my brain until I begin to write.  Then they flow onto the screen or paper in a flood.  I’ve been floored by what I discover about myself whilst writing.  There are days I dread writing because I know that through writing, I will discover whatever is nagging me and be forced to confront it.

Storytelling, again, connects us to the world.  We speak hundreds of languages, work in countless occupations, come from entirely different backgrounds, but in the end, we all have stories to tell.

What does storytelling mean to you?  The answer to that question is as varied as the people who answer it.  Give me your definition in the comments.  And check out Brainy Quotes “Storytelling” page.  There’s some great quotes there by people in very different fields.


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