Monday, July 6, 2015

The Elements of Storytelling: "So there I Was...."

I know what you're thinking. "What? Yet another 'how to write' column on the Internet?"

Well first off, there's no such thing as too many "how to write" articles. While the basic mechanics are the same, each writer tends to have a unique approach or perspective to it. But aside from that, while writing is certainly involved in the process of storytelling (even if all you need to do is jot down notes), if you think this column was titled "The Elements of Writing" then you need to go get an eye checkup.

This column will not be specifically about writing, nor will it be specifically about podcasting, or film making, or illustrations, or plays, or even campfire tales. It will involve the basics behind all of these, for regardless of the medium you choose, you still have to first know how to tell a good story. And that is something much easier said than done.

Sharing stories has been a part of human culture since the days when we lived in caves and we were covered in a lot more body hair. Indeed, it could possibly be one of the first things we ever did, right after sex. Whether the stories were true accounts, completely made up, or a slick combination of the two, we were sharing them.

Sharing them a lot.

At first inside the caves and around camp fires, then in the fields. We spoke them, acted them out, sang them. And when writing was finally invented, we wrote them down. Over those centuries and millennia, it became apparent to the earliest storytellers that certain elements worked to captivate and entertain an audience and certain elements didn't. And from that observation, the techniques evolved.

And many of those techniques are still used to this day. The mediums might have changed and expanded, became more advanced as technology progressed. But outside an occasional (and necessary) tweak or two, the basics of how to tell a good story has never changed.

And knowing the basics can mean the difference between having no audience at all or creating the story that later spawns the next "new" religion (How’s that “Force” thing working,fellas?).

That's a lot of weight to have on your shoulders, Grasshopper. Carry it well.

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