Some ragged thoughts on storytelling
When I was a little boy, my mother used to reprimand me for telling stories. What she meant was I shouldn’t make up a narrative to explain my actions or bahavior perceived as wrong. She wanted the truth.
Yet, I already knew that there was little truth, if any, in the children’s stories, cartoons and comics, books, tv shows, and movies that I became progressively more aware of and tuned in to. Here was a storytelling that was (at least sometimes) approved.
So, one conclusion is that storytelling does not necessarily relate to the truth-value of the content of the story. Or the truth-value lies somewhere else, to be interpreted by the reader/viewer.
A story (whether written, viewed in a set of consecutive scenes, still image, or any other format) provides some set of actions, thoughts, speach, objects, motion, etc. There may or may not be progression. There may or may not be any particlular reality. The storytelling includes implied reasons and rationales, and implied rules, laws, physics. Of course, any of these could be different from what we experience as reality. Additionally, the that a reader/viewer assumes and infers is probably different from the assumptions of the author/creator.
OK, for ragged thoughts, I’m starting to get too deep. Postmodern, readerly writing, and writerly reading and all that. I’ll need to be all academic and cite Barthes, and Foucault, and Whorf, and McLuhan, and Groom, and Levine, and Hendricks, and so many others. Not what I want to do today.
How about the digital part of digital storytelling? Certainly we don’t mean writing everything in binary digits, the language of computers? I think the common thought is that we are using the tools of the digital age for our storytelling. No longer are we limited to one medium, or one medium at a time. Now we can mix text, images, motion, narrative, scene, color, audio, design, etc all at once or none at all.
My personal influences (something I sometimes wonder about) include a wide variety of traditional and nontraditional sources. I don’t even know if I should list them, but what is openness if not disclosure of ourselves? Keep in mind that each of us has influences that affect our storytelling, not just in ds106, but in how we live our lives, how we think, how we relate to others, etc. There may be boxes and compartments, but their walls are flexible, and sometimes intersect in other dimensions.
Briefly, what influences my thought and storytelling: Christian faith and the Bible (having been Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Reformed…terms that mean differing things in various contexts); love of literature (science fiction (space opera, traditional themes of time travel and aliens, experimentalism of the New Wave of the ’70s), modernism (Joyce (Finnegans Wake preferred to Ulysses), Pound, W.C. Williams, dos Passos, etc), Beat generation (Ginsberg, Kerouac, Snyder, and others), detective fiction (primarily Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe, but others too), and much else); various music, especially the psychedelic era; twenty years in the Navy during the cold war era; science and technology, and philosophy (in a generalized sort of way). Toss in linguistics, puns, math, art history (dadaism in particular), puzzles and word games, and just plain quirky fun.
Well, I am not sure I have defined anything here. Let me finish by mentioning a long-term storytelling process that is personal to me. Starting when I was nineteen, I have kept a series of scrapbooks. The first was in a blank book called The Nothing Book. Since then I have used sketchbooks, business diaries, and my latest is an old partly-used yacht log. I have put into these books stickers, labels, clippings, pictures, maps, quotes, colorful papers, words, etc. Not necessarily any particular theme, but I have noticed that certain themes tend to show their impact. Currently, I have made eighteen of these journal/scrapbooks/artbooks. Am about to wrap up the most recent and start a new one, once I identify a suitable book and title. I also think about digitizing the whole collection and putting them online. (Time committments and copyrights are concepts that impede my progress).
Trek Across the Present, is the collective title of the series of scrapbooks that I have created/accumulated over the last 40 years or so.
I The Memories of Karen Eggnog 1972-1981
II Hardware Software 1978-1979
III Tales of a Vagabond Innocent 1978-1981
IV Silvery Wings and a Plastic Sandwich 1979-1981
V Clues 1979-1982
VI Elements of Style: notes towards a new syntax 1979-(destroyed)
VII Whispers of a Literary Explorer 1980-1981
VIII Topics in epistemology, ontology, eschatology, semiotic, neurology, psychology, physiology, relativity, quantum theory, political science, sociology, anthropology, epidemiology 1980-?
IX The Man Who Threw His Life Away 1980-1982
X The Memories of Alvah Avram Lazlo 1981-?
XI Voices in the Library 1981-1982
XII Parodies & Puns 1981-1984
XIII The Navy Adventure 1980-?
XIV (no title) 1982-?
XV Poetry as a Desperate Affair: Letters to the Real World 1982-1983
XVI War Against the Ordinary 1983-?
XVII Getting to Know Me 1991, 1998-(in progress)
XVIII Tap Here 2001 – (in progress)
I conclude by mentioning that I think all of you who read this have some sort of long-term creative process going on in your life. Your task is to use it to look back and know the trajectory of your life, something you could not have predicted or planned ahead of time.