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The Power of Storytelling - some reflections on vocal storytelling and creative writing.

Updated on April 19, 2016
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The Power of Storytelling.

Some Reflections on Vocal Storytelling and Creative Writing

by Helen M Sant

The dictionary definition of story is: “a narrative designed to interest or amuse the hearer or reader.” As both a writer and storyteller, I reflect on how vocal performance of narrative dates further back than reading or writing. Our ancestors invented stories to understand the world better and passed them down generations, by word of mouth.

We’re all aware of the need to create a “good story” and as readers, we’re likely to enjoy books which provide this. Grammar, poetic twists of phrase and social comment, are some of the ingredients that assist the flow of narrative, but there are other vital things to create a better story and encourage readers to page turn. Let me share with you, how storytelling informs the writer’s journey.

Hearing a story told well, is soothing; it unites a community, connecting them with something precious in themselves.

As I perform in the true vocal tradition, without set scripts, there is no room for total control. This is a positive thing because it allows each retelling of the story to be unique to the particular audience gathered.

When we become lost in a story, it has the power to impact on our lives. Children can learn to explore their limitless imagination; they learn anything is possible from stories. Adults too, benefit from the magic, security, community and connection that stories bring. Beyond the lie of the story is authenticity. It is a wonderful, rewarding experience to tell stories, as it is to hear them.

As writers, we must somehow capture this raw essence of humanity too. So if you want your narrative to flow better, I suggest you think about the emotional content behind it. Are your characters likeable or if not, at least interesting? Can your readers identify with them? Are the emotional and human situations true and dramatically engaging?

When storytelling, I only have minutes to provide pared down information about characters, setting and circumstances. This economy of description is vastly different from the short story or novel format.

The simplicity of “story” brings us back to ourselves. It is pure and potent. In an age where children’s literacy levels are sometimes said to have deteriorated, it is storytelling and the power of story we can turn to, to offer improvement and inspiration.

Storytelling’s chief purpose is escapism. Its value to the listener or reader is not only entertainment but catharsis.

So what can you do, to improve and strengthen your writing? If you’ve a piece you’ve finished, it’s useful to set it aside and leave it for awhile. Maybe a week, maybe a month. Then when you return to it, attempt to step into the reader’s shoes and ask yourself questions about it. Does it engage you? Does it make you cry, laugh and think?

Is it filled with suspense? Would the story prompt the reader to ask questions to find out what’s going on? Would your story challenge and provoke? What are you aiming to really achieve with your story?

To conclude, you may wish to reflect on the emotional significance of storytelling in order to improve your creative writing. Great writing is hewn from empathy. Life is about risks, rejection, success and wonderful emotion. Therefore the more a writer cultivates self-awareness, the more their writing will flourish. As it becomes truthful, vivid and able to touch the hearts and minds of others, the writing is not just writing anymore; it’s a story.

In the end, the appeal of timeless stories, whether told or written, is that they reach out to us in some way. Naturally, since we are all different, one story may reach one person and not another. Writers have no control over this, but polishing your writing, while being mindful readers engage with their hearts rather than minds, is the key to creating a story people will want to read.

I wish you happy endings.

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