Conversation | However narrative and storytelling are defined, people know them when they “feel” them. Yes? No?

By Limor Shiponi

It started on twitter:

greggvm However narrative and storytelling are defined, people know them when they “feel” them. Yes? No? @storyteling

Storyteling @greggvm I’m not sure since the definitions are “however”. I don’t think you can “feel” narrative for instance.

Storyteling @greggvm In order to “feel” narrative something has to stir an emotional arc into it. A story. Still, it’s not necessarily storytelling.

Storyteling @greggvm Just been thinking today that most of what people call storytelling is really story-delivery

Storyteling @greggvm In any case I’ll need more than twitter-space to explain that πŸ™‚

greggvm @Storyteling I agree. I wrote something a few weeks ago about separating “story” from “telling” in terms of delivery mechanisms.

Eventually we (@greggvm is Gregg Morris on twitter) decided to continue on a more spacious platform. This is a conversation, everybody is invited to take part.

By now it’s rather obvious the terms “narrative” and “storytelling” are not defined in such a way many people agree on their definition. You can read phrases like “when you are involved with the storytelling of a culture, it’s narrative or the stories that make that culture what it is…” I can’t say I really understand what’s written here. Gregg was suggesting that whatever “it’s” called, we can know “it” when we feel “it”. Hmmm… there is a problem here.

As I said on twitter – In order to “feel” narrative something has to stir an emotional arc into it, a story. Still, it’s not necessarily storytelling. Literature can stir story in a narrative too. So can screenplay writing as can many other forms of expression that involve narrative.

Why do I call those forms story-delivery? because except than in storytelling and in addition to some other differentiators, those forms deliver a fixed text in a fixed form. It’s not really even story, we only got used to call it that way.Β  The text or composition does not change if you sell the book in the US or the UK. If you sell in now and re-sell it in 10 years from now, its the same. In storytelling it’s never the same since the narrative changes a little every time you tell the composition.

11 thoughts on “Conversation | However narrative and storytelling are defined, people know them when they “feel” them. Yes? No?”

  1. Hold on now. πŸ™‚ Before you get lynched by all of the literati out there, (and yes, I know that you are quite capable of holding your own!) can you elaborate a little bit more this: “…those forms deliver a fixed text in a fixed form. It’s not really even story, we only got used to call it that way.”

    Why isn’t it a story?

    I do understand that in the ever changing dynamic that is oral storytelling, the narrative will change with each and every telling.

  2. I’m quoting my definitions from our previous conversation…
    “If you want to know my definitions, here they are, see how you feel about them:

    Narrative is the playground of what will eventually materialize into a story event including the medium. Endless pieces of information, connections, sensations etc.

    Plot is a choice taken in the narrative. A linear path of actions meeting details put in a certain way.

    Story is the emotional arch that rises in the listener – listening to the plot, using parts of the narrative, some of them not mentioned at all in the plot.

    The plot’s influence on the narrative is – form.

    The way the story is expressed in the plot is – theme.

    The purification of story in the narrative is – metaphor.

    All the above is interconnected and works in mutual influence.”

    So what I’m saying is that the plot is not the story. The story is in the mind/heart/body of the beholder. If plot is too narrow for those you think might want a lynch πŸ™‚ we can call it – composition. This was suggested by Kevin Cordi on a comment made to another post and I feel it’s right.

    The composition in a book is fixed.

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  5. Thank you. I have those very same definitions from our previous conversations in a note here on my desktop but I thought it would help for others who might be joining the conversation to see them early on in the discussion.

    While all of the above are critical pieces of the discussion, I think the most critical one is “Story is the emotional arch that rises in the listener – listening to the plot, using parts of the narrative, some of them not mentioned at all in the plot.” I think that most people believe that “story” is in the teller, writer, audiographer, videographer, transmedia whateverer. That it is owned by whoever is telling it in whatever manner. And in your definition, that is not the case.

    1. There are several issues here if I understand right:

      The definition of “story”
      Where story is
      The connection between where story is to ownership

      Am I missing something?

  6. I don’t think I can agree with you on this one though I also suspect it has to do with those definitions. Since I work and think more in writing terms, I’ll explain myself in that context.

    For me, when you refer to a “fixed text in a fixed form” you are referring to one of the three ways a story exists when it is written. There is what the writer thinks he is writing, there is what he actually writes, and there is what the reader reads. They all may be similar but are not the same and are sometimes wildly different. And the last, what the reader reads, is different for every reader and differs for each one over time. (How else to explain why a book I loved when I was young bores me to tears now?)

    I believe it’s the same with oral storytelling. There is the story the teller thinks he or she is telling and there is what the audience hears, different for each one. Much of this relates to the emotional arc you speak of. If a story is told about the death of a child it will likely have much more impact — meaning — on someone who has just lost a child than for someone who has never had children or a teen who has yet to think in terms of raising a family.

    It may have to do with that term storytelling and how each of us defines it. For me, a story can be told in any number of forms.

  7. One other thing … storytelling, in the oral sense, is also fixed in its way. For instance, if the story told is in English and part of the group listening can only understand French, the story is lost on them or what they receive is limited to the tone, vocal modulations and gestures.

    What I am getting at is referred to in your definition of storytelling when you refer to a story only really existing in the imagination of the listener, which is where a written story only exists. (I would add that it exists, though differently, in the teller’s imagination too.)

  8. Hi Bill and welcome,
    Yes, definitions are part of this discussion – trying to clarify them as much as possible. Notice you mentioned three ways story exists when it is written and two when it is told. Is there a reason for that difference?
    Regards,

  9. I noticed that too as I was writing but was rushed … πŸ™‚

    I don’t think it really matters. Writing produces a text; verbal doesn’t. My point was the subjectivity that defines the story — both the teller’s and the audience’s. The objective text is irrelevant in this sense since no one really sees it with complete objectivity. Marshall Mcluhan aside, I just have a hard time with seeing how the medium alters the story. To some degree, I see it changing through how it is communicated but I can’t see how the essence of “story” would change.

  10. No doubt, subjectivity defines the story – if we both agree that ‘story’ is what is created in the witness (aka listener which is also the teller if he is not alone).
    How come verbal doesn’t produce a text? if not, what does it produce?
    Oh, the essence of ‘story’ can change through medium if ‘story’ is what we agreed upon two seconds ago and not the text. Do you find reading a text and hearing a text the same? hearing not like in listening to a recording but hearing like in eye-to-eye.
    I don’t think the objective text has to do with objectivity but more with codification of real-life events (even if they are fantastic and never happened).

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