In search of a storytelling grid | part II

By Limor Shiponi

Building upon the previous post where I presented the idea of creating a grid and the threefold as the core model of storytelling I would like to look for a moment at what happens to it during a storytelling event. Understanding the dynamics even in a very basic way, helps realize more parts of the grid I’m trying to create here.

If you watch a storyteller you’ll notice she is using three expression channels – story-text, voice and gesture. It is no simple task; behind these three short words hide many more, all parts of the grid worth examining. Story-text, voice and gesture are used in other arts and communications too; the differentiator in storytelling is the fact that the event happens orally, in time, while adapting to other ‘things’ going on simultaneously. (Don’t be mistaken – these attributes do not reside with the messenger alone; the witness and the utterance must be as able with story-text, voice and gesture in order for the storytelling event to reach its full extent. This might sound weird concerning the utterance; how can it be able voice and gesture wise? We’ll get there eventually.)

A storytelling event in slow-motion

Messenger, witness and utterance wonder through the world minding their own business. Utterance can meet messenger or witness; witness can meet messenger or utterance… you get the idea. When all three meet for the purpose of sharing (why really? This is important. Any suggestions or comments?) a storytelling event is on its way to happen in the now. A second or more before the event takes off, something happens. Something which creates intention that holds the sense of a promise. You can actually feel it physically. The partnership in exchange contract is signed right there – all for one and one for all, I’m here for you and you both are here for me – all around between three partners. From that moment on through the entire duration of the utterance whether it be a single text or an entire night of storytelling, the intention and promise are (hopefully) kept.

Orally in time

This connection suggests quite a few limitations (possibilities?) – capacity of voice, breath, outer-talk (speech), inner-talk (thought), capacity of imagination, memory, affection, conscience and reason. How much can you listen to with intention? How much can you remember? How far can you stretch your memory, challenge your senses and feelings? You can’t turn the page back if you drifted into your own mind, you can’t reverse time and eventually at some point, you’ll need to go to the toilet, have something to drink or stretch your back. Again, this is true for all three partners. The utterance might not show physical limitations but it does carry them. The ‘magic’ can’t happen later, it needs to happen now.

In time while adapting to a specific event

This connection suggests quite a few possibilities (limitations?) – Interdependency, interactivity, influence, interest – it’s like watching a dance where no one ever stops, just continues moving in ever growing sync and sense of unity that creates hope, faith and reverence to each other – the kind version of ‘us’. Suggesting that touching buttons on an iPad version of a story is the evolution of storytelling interactivity… I hope you are joking or that this last paragraph makes you think again.

A synergy that creates endless echoes

While the event is going on, all three partners are creating numerous echoes in their own worlds as in their joined world; new thoughts, insights, memories, questions, answers, understandings, delights, feelings – they are working together and alone. That work creates such effects it is worth our while again and again. It’s not that we are always after insights or spiritual revelation; sometime we just want to sigh in front of a memory evoked by the telling, sometimes we just want to be with others and share for the sake of having a witness to our story; there can be so many reasons.

Back to the storytelling grid

Reading this description of what happens to the threefold model during a storytelling event; I think you can realize the connection to some of the known stork-work applications that emphasize a skill or ability needed to perform that work (more than one in most cases). Story-work facilitators for instance have to be skilled with interactivity in the now – not necessarily required from an author. The skills of adaptation are important in marketing but not so highly sought in advertizing even if you are using a story. You’re not going to adapt a broadcast that cost your company three million dollars, are you? You’ll be using a different skill required in storytelling – the ability to create a sense of communality. In storytelling, because of the physical proximity and direct trust you can channel a difficult plot; that won’t work in gaming since dying and failing characters are really bad for business; but you will be using the skill of creating many plotline possibilities.

Please do join in and add your thoughts. To be continued…

4 thoughts on “In search of a storytelling grid | part II”

  1. If I’m getting you aright, I think we’re using different language/images to say basically the same thing (ref my comment on part I) – hate to use such a nasty word, but we seem to be saying that it’s fundamentally a transactional thing. The locus of the threefold being the transaction – it can’t happen if any one of three is absent, and also requires (at some level or other) intention and consent.

    Love the notion of an implicit contract being entered into, and you’re absolutely correct, you *can* feel it physically…although dammed if I can articulate what if feels like 🙂

    Why we all meet for sharing? – a spectacularly good question, perhaps the most important one of all…

    There will be many proximate answers, varying from context to context, and these are the difficult things to tease out, sometimes…

    The ultimate answer, though, I think is simple – we can’t help ourselves. Stories are the fundamental building blocks we use to construct our understanding of the world and ourselves in the world. That’s just how our minds work.

    That’s why stories hold such power, why it’s important to understand how our shared stories are changing and being changed…why discussions like this matter.

    It’s fun too, of course, stretching one’s brain like taffy…

    1. Yes, we are using different language/images to say basically the same thing. I call the transaction thing ‘partnership in exchange’ but still we mean the same thing. I’ve noticed that all storytellers I talk to about this matter face-to-face use the same hand movements when trying to describe what’s going on inside them while storytelling. That means that somewhere there is a common image but words cannot describe it well enough. I can try though, thinking about it.

      I love Boccaccio’s thought about why we share stories through storytelling – as long as the telling goes on, our fear of death is halted. Yes, the brain stretching is fun too…

      1. ‘partnership in exchange’ is a better way of putting it, I think …it becomes possible to talk/think about the conditions that initiate/support the exchange, it’s nature and dynamics.

        Boccaccio may have been on to something 🙂 Who wouldn’t want to live in an endless moment of *now* ?

        1. Judging according to the choices he took in ‘Il Decamerone’ Senior Boccaccio was no fool when it comes to storytelling. Although it is a written piece, all the stories originate in the oral form and his descriptions of the telling are lovely.

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