Wednesday, 11 September 2013

What storytelling is to me.

So DS106 Headless has asked me to reflect on the idea of what I associate with the word storytelling? Um, that's tough because I basically tell stories all the time. Someone asks about my day and the next thing I'm doing is conveying a story. "Fine, how about you" rarely leaves my lips unless you're walking down the hall. If you're stationary I'll have you pinned against the wall and be weaving a story about something before you realize you've been ambushed. A little embellishment here, a little emphasis there and before you know it I've told you a tale. And guess what? I'm waiting for your tale back!
I usually associate storytelling with laughter because if you know me you'll know that most likely I'll be telling you about something I or a member of my family has done that I find humorous. I was lucky to be raised with a family with a sense of humour and aunts and uncles with a zest  for telling stories. And while I do not have the same brilliant way with words as some of them, I do, I believe, have a gift for recognizing the absurd. And because I do, perhaps I am lucky that it finds me. Regularly.

"So I went down to the Outer Banks for the first time last week. I hadn't been to the sea in over a year and last time it was along the north shore of Prince Edward Island, unfortunately during the time of the jelly fish. Lots and lots of jelly fish. Jelly fish bobbing along the shore, jelly fish in the small tidal pools, jelly fish dying on the shore. And it's not like you're going to pick them up and rescue them is it?

The Outer Banks are gorgeous with beautiful beaches and big waves, which means riptides (not something I had to worry about in Prince Edward Island!). There are pelicans and I was shouting out pelican! pelican! like a demented two year old for the first few days every time I saw one. And they were fishing off the shore and flying in formation. I didn't know pelicans flew in groups like that.

Now I was determined to get into the water everyday I was there because I don't often have a chance to swim in the ocean so even though there was a brisk wind and waves I coaxed my friend Cindy into the water. We're swimming and it was quite deep for the first few feet and then we hit a sandbar so we were walking in the water, first below our knees and then to our thighs and then above our heads. The swells were great, the water was warm and it was wonderful. As we headed back to the shore the waves became more forceful and I got hit and tumbled a few times before I made it back to the beach. Since I was wearing my glasses (yes I know! I took them off after that and didn't wear them into the ocean,) every time a wave crashed over my head, I had one hand on my glasses and one on my hat.

We climbed to shore and for some reason my swimsuit was tugging at my waist but I thought it was the wind. I grabbed at my swimsuit a few times and then proceeded to watch the waves, swim again and then finish off in the salt water swimming pool before heading up to change for dinner. I stepped into the shower, removed my swimsuit bottoms and out drops a silver fish about three and half inches long, quite, quite dead. Obviously the wind had not been tugging at my knickers to get out. Yes, while other people need to get a lure and a line, I can just catch fish with my pants."

Now how could this story have been improved? Digitally of course. I didn't even think of taking a picture and I don't have a waterproof camera, but wouldn't a picture have been awesome? I should have gotten dressed and grabbed my camera! That way I would have had proof!

Sometimes an image can stand alone, sometimes it needs words to put it into context. Images, because they require no translation, are very powerful. However, would the image of a dead fish laying beside my swimsuit bottoms really convey much of the story I just told? Not really. But they would have made my fish story even better. A picture with a caption helping define the context would also work. Maybe a caption like: New fishing method delivers startling results! But still, I do like my story. I think I am a much better writer than I am photographer.

But digital can mean any medium and we shouldn't be constrained by the idea of just words and images. It can be sounds, movies, drawn art, anything that conveys our ideas.

P.S. Look! Pelicans! Pelicans!


  1. I love how your explanation of storytelling veers off into a story.
    I'd agree that a photo would not add much to the story. The pics with the ps does though. And the repeat of 'pelicans' helps the photos.

    But perhaps digital could give another dimension to the fishing story, if the digital was audio. I'd love to hear the story and find out how that differed from the written word.

  2. John, I agree. I am very much a verbal teller of stories. When I first wrote the story I wrote it as if I was speaking it and then the language arts teacher in me could not bear to publish it without correcting all of the tenses (and I probably missed a few!) When we write we edit, when we speak, less so. Does the ability to tape our voice mean that we end up editing our speech which is often the most spontaneous act we do? (Other than the bodily functions we have no control over?)I do use my voice as an instrument when conveying a story, using pauses and over-emphasis of certain words to add drama or humour. I, unfortunately, also use a lot of hand gestures, which makes standing in my vicinity rather dangerous if I'm trying to convey something (though I've been told it is entertaining to watch.)

  3. I love the idea that the words help the photo and viceversa. And that syntax has to be attended to as a way of expression.... like word repetition can enhance a many lovely ideas here.

  4. The photo that would have made this story would have been the look on your face when you realized that you had a dead fish in your suit!! Your story did make me laugh! I do think the cadence of our voice affects the story, so the digitalization, as John suggests could change the story. Thanks for sharing


  5. True! I did do the slack jawed look of amazement when it fell out of my pants. I checked to see if it was still alive and then flushed it down the toilet and proceeded with my shower. Maybe I should start my own reality show? But then don't we become self-conscious when we're being watched or filmed or taped? So then how true would my voice have been then? Thanks for the feedback!!