Posts Tagged ‘iversity’

The first “adult” story I remember picking up and reading on my own was “The Telltale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe.  I was, perhaps 7 or 8 when I discovered a collection of thin books in bright hues on the bookshelf at the base of the stairs up to my parents’ room.  It was at the little window there that I used to read, by early morning light, the stories that would become my oldest and most cherished friends.  Each book was a classic work of fiction designed for children.  Pictures opened worlds on every other page.  How a collection of Poe stories, including “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Raven” came to be in a child’s book, I will never know.  Rats have terrified me beyond rational reason and ravens have become wise seers in my mind ever since.

But I digress.  I remember devouring every single one of those books in the mornings before the rest of the house stirred.  I didn’t like being downstairs alone, so I would read until I knew an older sibling or a parent was awake.  Huckleberry Finn, Romeo and Juliet, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and, of course, Poe – the master of darkness – entertained my mornings.  Something about “The Telltale Heart” made my own heart beat faster.  The narrator’s descent into madness was evident to me even as a child and yet, there was something chilling about the old man’s eye and his heart’s incessant beating even after death that made me grieve for the narrator.  The same first-person view that would later draw me into many of H. P. Lovecraft’s most unsettling stories hooked me from the beginning.  I think the viewpoint is what really hooked me from the first sentence.  “True! nervous – very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?”

As I grew older and, primarily through books and other entertainment, came to realize that mental stability is a highly questionable thing, I found myself latching on to “The Telltale Heart” more and more.  The idea of a mind unhinging both fascinates and terrifies me.

Though it was such a short story (the children’s version was barely pared down; the only true differences I’ve found from the original are a couple of word choices), it’s clung to me all these years.  I’ve since read everything Poe wrote.  Some of his poems oddly comforted me during my teen years.  “A Dream within a Dream” accompanied me to bed many nights.  “Kingdom by the Sea” gave me a reason to cry.  “The Raven”…well, it’s “The Raven.”  It’s beautiful and haunting.   But the one story that I’ve read countless dozens of times and still, though I practically know it verbatim, makes me hunch over my book, eyes wide, heart racing, deaf to the world, is “The Telltale Heart.”

If, somehow, you have made it this far in life without having read Poe, I highly recommend you read it as soon as you can.  Every decent library ought to have at least one copy of his complete works.  Or you can just go here.

What story first truly captured you: heart, mind, and soul?  Tell us in the comments.

This post was inspired by the Creative Task of the Week in the Future of Storytelling MOOC. 

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.