Elements of storytelling

The Scottish Storytelling Festival is this week, and that’s got us thinking (watch out!) about all the different ways of storytelling: written liked books or poems or scrolls; oral like audio books, or live speaking or songs; and visual like movies, TV, plays, ballet, cabaret… (Complete aside: have you seen this Gary Barlow wind up? HILARIOUS!)


Obviously, my area of expertise is on the written side – though really only in fiction. It’s a shame I don’t know more about poetry… I am learning about audio (have you seen our behind-the-scenes making our first audio book?) and tomorrow’s blog will be from our resident podcast expert (Amy).

But I thought I would try to talk about the common key elements in all kinds of good storytelling. I did a fair amount of nail-chewing on the train this morning trying to find the common elements… let me know if I’m missing anything big!

Firstly, the storyteller. A story has to be told, a poem written, a song sung… there is always someone behind it, doing it for pleasure, for money, for survival, for homework. We can’t forget that in all of this story analysing that there are people behind this creative work. Especially in oral storytelling, their personality and presentation is crucial!

Secondly, character. Not every story has to have plot, but I can’t think of a story where there is no character. Preferably, this character or these characters will evoke emotional responses from the audience and be memorable. I also feel strongly that a character shuold drive the story, not have the story happen to them.

Thirdly, novelty. There should be something new, either in the way it is told or what is being told. A new combination of events, a different kind of hero, or just something that audience wouldn’t have seen or heard before.

So, I suppose what I’m saying is, if you bring YOU to the table, and tell the story in your own way… and build a brilliant character while offering something new, you’re my kind of storyteller.

(Great storytellers who I am SO excited are working together: Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran! Thanks, Sugarscape for keeping me up on the gossip and for additional “storytelling” examples!)

Thanks fanlala.com for the image.

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3 responses to “Elements of storytelling

  1. Sara, what you have said is music to my ears. NOVELTY! is the key word to your blog. Bringing something different, something alive, something in an unusual way is the way forward to writing for children’s lit. Of course it has to be “well” writen or it will not read well. But! if it is different it stand s a good chance of getting recognised.
    Stan mills

  2. Yeaaaaaah Taylor Swift 🙂 You know they’ll be touring together? But only in the US. Boo 😦

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