Storytelling is not a combination of two words. Here’s why…

By Limor Shiponi

As discussed on this blog before, storytelling is a noun, a verb, and an adjective; what is called a gerund or a gerundive complementizer (see link for explanations). Storytelling was formed in the oral cultures and cultivated to the level of high-art, way before a written word appeared somewhere.

So it wasn’t that first there was story and then came the telling. It’s not a combination of two words – it’s one! you can’t re-verb it, you can’t re-brand it, and any attempt to add something to it just dilutes its original power. Now I also understand why all these attempts seem to me like fractions of the real thing. The people doing it don’t get it, and what they do isn’t even close.


5 thoughts on “Storytelling is not a combination of two words. Here’s why…”

    1. What I’m doing here is trying to understand what makes this art, how it came to be, why, what it is made of, looking for as clear as possible workable definitions. I’m doing it mainly for myself and other storytellers – so we can know what we need to improve on, what we can teach and what cannot be taught but only experienced along time, so we can have some critical tools that are really missing.

      If people coming from other arts and disciplines are interested too, that’s great. I think we grow when cross-pollinating.

      The problem is, that before you can mingle well, you need a clear identity. Otherwise you might get lost, swallowed, marginal. In marginal I don’t mean ‘fringe’, I mean unable to take part in the larger scheme of things; you become offensive-defensive. That’s not healthy.

      I wonder what you see as ‘rigid parameters’ that I’m imposing. I’m especially curious about this as a person coming from classical music. From what I’ve experienced along that path, there are quite a few things people could tag ‘rigid parameters’. Do you find classical music and musicians as people who lack creativity, spirit, expression and the ability to transcend?

  1. We’re both storytellers, so we can ask us! Storytellers can have all kinds of motives. Telling a tale for the purpose of driving profitable customer action does not turn someone’s storytelling into something else. It may not be the kind of storytelling one prefers, but it is still storytelling.

    Rigid parameters = “…you can’t re-verb it, you can’t re-brand it, and any attempt to add something to it just dilutes its original power.”

    In some cases, technology serves to enhance storytelling’s original power.

    Rigid parameters = “Storytelling can’t be a buzzword!”

    Storytelling IS a buzzword. Usage defines.

    Perhaps years ago someone wrote an article about how electronic mail was two words, not able to be compounded or abbreviated, and that those who send “email” were kidding themselves to think that what they were doing was close to the power of postal mail.

    1. David, I don’t think the two of us are enough to draw a conclusion about an art. I understand the individualistic nature of your argument but it’s not enough to move an art forward – it never was if you look at the history of other arts. Taking this path always leads to the question, “says who?”

      Those are not rigid parameters about the art. The word “storytelling”, playing with it however you want, isn’t storytelling. It’s a representation. Thinking it can represent anything or that any word can represent storytelling, is counterproductive to what I’m looking for – helping storytellers walk along the path of improvement.

  2. Pingback: Agora – the best of 2013 | Limor's Storytelling Agora

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