Suddenly storytelling is hot. From our own Grant’s True Tales to CBC’s “The Story from Here.” Even Hollywood is getting in on the act with two blockbuster films about Snow White – Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. Even the New York Times recently featured a new storytelling program “Tell and Show” being taught at the Pit, a New York theatre and bar in Manhattan. It reports that New York offers hundreds of classes on sketch, improv and joke telling, but storytelling is rapidly catching up. From the Moth Story Slam to story-based shows at the Magnet and Upright Citizens, the genre’s stage time is growing. So is storytelling actually coming back into fashion or did it ever go anywhere in the first place?
Growing up we shared stories around the family dinner table – my Dad was a wonderful racconteur but today we all try to say it in 140 characters or less. Those of us working in public relations have always understood the significance of “the story” but it is good to see that today everyone is talking about the importance of narrative. The ability to share stories and anecdotes is now regarded as critical to leadership. Good-bye deconstructionist literature, hello to the good yarn.
But storytelling has always had a role to play from helping us to synthesize events and experiences, creating tropes or metaphors that explain life’s vicissitudes. Somewhere I remember reading that we all process information by repeating life stories into “legend” subconsciously delivering the catharsis needed to move on. For many of us, our biggest challenge is to find meaning in our lives. This isn’t easy. Many of the scholars looking at children’s literature argue that to move through this process we have to transcend our own self-centeredness by penetrating universal truth. Stories – shared tales – provide guideposts to moral behavior that aid in the maturing process – enabling functionality in the social order.
In these hyper cynical times, it is good to see so many of us returning to the campfire.