Storytelling to me brings to mind my grandfather. He loves to tell stories about history, his own life, a great book he’s read, pretty much anything. Storytelling to me, therefore, is sharing an experience, whether personally or indirectly, that has had a lasting impression on you. Sometimes it’s a funny story meant purely for entertainment, other times there is a moral lesson involved.
I suppose storytelling currently has a place in my life on client site as a consultant. We’re always thinking in the structure of stories as we look for ways to improve efficiencies in the struggles our clients currently face, and look to help them find their “happy ending” and resolution.
I personally think I can always learn from a story I hear, especially as someone who always tries to learn from the mistakes/successes of others. Stories are a way to share in the growth and experience of the storyteller without necessarily having to feel the pain or heartbreak that they experienced firsthand.
Digital storytelling seems to me to be a change in method, not in content. Instead of hearing my Grandfather tell his story in his living room, I can see his story through his use of social media, the pictures he takes and puts into a digital album, the blog post he writes about a recent experience or thought he had. These are more figurative examples than literal, but the point is that digital storytelling is changing the way in which we tell stories, and the number of people we can reach with our stories, rather than the type of content we include in our stories.
Ira Glass seemed to follow this same idea in his discussion of the anecdote as a building block of storytelling. From the audience’s perspective it’s about sharing an experience with the character. A feeling of suspense, or excitement, or disappointment. The moment of reflection is the moment the character decides what to do with the experience s/he just had. Glass describes the combination of these two elements as the makings of a great story, that when they are accurately aligned, they become larger than the sum of their parts. I suppose this is usually the punchline in my grandfather’s joke, or the takeaway he wants us to learn from that story.
Andrew Stanton describes great story telling as making a promise to the audience that the story will lead somewhere that’s worth your time. If the audience believes this promise, they will be patient and “work for their meal.” In other words they will be willing to give you the freedom to break storytelling “rules” as was the case in Toy Story. On the other hand, if things become too static in the story, it will die and you will lose the audience quickly. Stanton brought it back to the heart of my grandfather’s stories when he described wonder as the greatest gift you can give your audience. One thing’s for sure, my grandfather always speaks to what is in his core and to a captive audience of me, has never broken his key promise of leading me through a story worth my time.