Monday, 29 July 2013

The Art of Storytelling

by Victoria Galvin

I’ve always loved a good story. But then, that’s hardly unusual. Everybody does; from the story your best friend is telling you about their latest disastrous dating experience, to the best-selling story that famous author wrote, which that famous director brought to film, with an inspired soundtrack written by that famous singer/songwriter. Society is built on the way we interact with one another – and one of the most basic ways of doing that is through the telling of stories.

But where did it all start? 
My enduring fascination with this question was a big part of my decision to study Classical Studies at university, because it took me right back to the beginning of things – to the origins of Western culture. What’s stuck with me the most is the aetiology of literature. The basic genres and storylines we all know and love today were already being created by a civilisation that goes so far back into the mists of time, it hadn’t even discovered writing yet.

At this point I realise I’m starting to sound a bit like the beardy guy from Jurassic Park, but a little context never hurt anybody. Incidentally, if Romeo had been given a little more context concerning Juliet’s “death”, then their love story probably wouldn’t have ended up a tragedy. Then again, Shakespeare might never have found the inspiration for Romeo and Juliet if it hadn’t been for the influence of Greek tragedy (and comedy) from the 5th Century BC.

Anyway, back to the slightly more recent past. After graduating last year, I went on to study a Masters in Radio. I’d had a great time being involved in student radio during my undergrad degree, and, harbouring an irrational fear of “The Real World” (reinforced by the comparatively sheltered university lifestyle), I decided I’d like the chance to focus my career path a little more before surrendering myself to the cold dark of Unemployment (that one’s inspired by Gandalf).

And I’m so glad I did. Radio is, of course, at one of its most basic levels, just another medium for storytelling; and that is exactly why I love it. It’s the sheer pervasiveness of storytelling – through societies, through generations, through time – that I find amazing. And it’s something to which I have attempted to do justice in my own radio work.

For our final creative radio production this year, we were given the task of making a fifteen minute feature on absolutely anything we wanted. We were of course strongly advised to keep a few ideas floating about in our minds, just in case plan A didn’t work out – we might not have been able to get all the interviews we wanted, or it might turn out that the idea just wouldn’t translate well for a radio piece. That’s exactly what had happened to me for one of my previous creative pieces (a word of advice – just because somebody has fantastic facial hair does not mean they have a story to tell). But this time I had no plan B, because this time I was going to do a feature on storytelling – and what could possibly go wrong with that?

The truth is, a lot could have gone wrong. Luck plays a big part and, well, luckily I was lucky. What I wanted to do was convey the beauty of storytelling in all its different forms. I interviewed four very talented storytellers, all of whom tell their stories in very different ways. The feature is by no means an all-encompassing expression of every single type of storytelling there is; I’d need closer to fifteen hours rather than fifteen minutes for that – but it’s a start. Storytelling is all about inspiration, influence, imagination. I myself was inspired by these four artists to make this feature – my own sort of story, about storytelling.

I hope that, in some way, it inspires you too.

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