Monday, November 19

The Power of Storytelling

I had the revelation after finishing my first book, that I can tell a story.  Now for me, this does not consist of merely entertaining readers, but of painting times, places and people from every century of history, putting them into perspective for a person sitting quietly at home, and blow that person's expectations, understanding and opinions out of the water.  

It means to be able to affect people.  The reading that you do as a child especially, shapes and moulds you into the person you grow to become, by giving you experiences and insight, friends and hardships.  As a storyteller, you have the ability to provide this learning.  Storytellers have the ability to say a thing, however small or large, however distressing or thought-provoking, that will be heard by many, but for which they cannot be persecuted.  

Not only does the story act as a shield against controversy, but the story is a vehicle for ultimate truth.  The fact is that when you hear a story, your mind does not necessarily pick out the point straight away, but might instead require moments of reflection to understand.  Metaphors, allegories, similes make things so much easier to understand, and easier to accept.  My dad visited a gallery of modern art recently, during a postmodernism exhibition.  One piece was a film in which three baby bird sock-puppets chatted with child voices about the sad event of losing their home tree to urbanisation.  Half way through the film, the audience realised suddenly that these sweet little birds that they were so content to watch in fact used the voices of children of the Stolen Generations to speak.  These voices - these truths - were taken from something entirely different and given different personas, a new story, to which an audience had a greater ability to listen.  They were not confronted with emotionally-charged accounts of horrific events, but instead listened with empathy and connection to baby birds.  Once they understood what the story was really about, they were able to now look upon the real children of the Stolen Generations with real understanding, and see them as precious, innocent, fragile young children.  

Storytelling has unrivalled power to say what cannot be said plainly - to make clearer the parts of tangled issues - to provoke every reader to observe and reflect on things they never considered before - to help each reader connect to people from whom they are divided by time and space, as well as those closest to them.  

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