Story Time

When I think of storytelling, I think of storytellers. Behind every narrative, whether fiction or nonfiction, there is a storyteller.

The particular word “storyteller” brings to mind two distinct images for me. The first is of a children’s storyteller, repeating tales passed down through the oral tradition or perhaps that they have created themselves, entertaining and enthralling children with the sound of their voice, the characters they bring to life, the narratives they weave, and perhaps even satisfying the psychological and emotional needs of their listeners or providing a moral lesson in the hopes that the children will internalize that message.

The second is of the character Andrew from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There is an episode of Buffy called “Storyteller” that is told from Andrew’s point of view as he films a documentary on Buffy and the other slayers. He provides amusing commentary on the daily goings-on, misses the significance of certain events, sensationalizes others, attempts to brush over or conceal his own flaws and past transgressions, and is in many ways the archetypal “unreliable narrator.” And throughout the episode, the events going on are of a lesser importance to the process he is going through in telling the story and in coming to terms with the reality of his situation.

Both of these images reflect my own association of stories with the people who tell them. As a writer, I often pay attention to the choices that someone makes in constructing a story, and always consider how the author has affected their story, even if it is intended to be a journalistic piece. Because ultimately those choices of which details to include and how to structure the narrative reflect the author, not the content. Seven different journalists writing the same news story would tell it seven different ways.

“Digital” storytelling allows the person creating a story even greater freedom in choosing a mode of communicating their story. It introduces computers into the mix, whether using FinalCut to change the coloring in footage, or a digital camera to preserve an image in a format that won’t deteriorate with age, or a blog to publish their fiction in installments à la a modern Charles Dickens.  These new formats don’t change the story a person has to tell, but they do change (or rather expand) the choices they can make. Digital storytelling opens up new doors in how to tell stories and perhaps more importantly how to share them with others. After all, can a storyteller really tell a story without an audience?

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