Storytelling: then and now


Back when I was a little girl, I went through a phase of telling people that I wanted to write a book when I grew up. I had no idea what I wanted to write about, and no real understanding of what writing a book entailed. I just knew that I wanted to create stories and write them down. Leave a permanent mark somewhere in the world.

As I got older and started to read books aimed at teenagers, I became even more obsessed with the printed word and would fly through books like they were magazines. I especially liked books that were set in a foreign country (I still do), and I would become hooked on the narrative as the plot would play out across the pages, while imagining places that I hoped to one day visit myself.

I realised early on that good storytelling is a skill and one that requires time and effort to master. Anyone can tell a story, but it’s how a story is told that makes all the difference. The art of successful storytelling lies in the delivery.

The evolution of storytelling

Why am I writing about writing stories? It’s in honour of National Storytelling Week, which led me to think about the history of storytelling and what it means today, from content marketing to public relations, or simply that one friend who is great at telling stories at the pub.

So, when did we start telling stories?

It can be argued that storytelling started 100,000 years ago when humans began painting and drawing, but it’s within the last few hundred years that we really transitioned into storytellers.

Think about folklore, something that is present in different forms around the world, and the fairy tales that it has inspired. Think about the symbolism and the metaphors that are entwined in such stories and have been dissected and interpreted ever since. Telling stories is a part of who we are, and it’s something that we learn from a very early age.

Today, storytelling is present everywhere.

From social media to news articles, podcasts, photos, magazines, and, of course, books. Storytelling is the backbone of the marketing, PR, and advertising industries, with content creation a central pillar for building brands.

Without storytelling we wouldn’t know what was happening on the other side of the world, or even another part of the country. And without it, life would be quite dull. At least I think so anyway.

Storytelling and writing

As copywriters, storytelling is what we do on a daily basis. Whether it’s drafting a press release, editing a company website, or writing a blog (like this one), we are constantly creating and telling stories. The platforms for storytelling may have changed and evolved from the years of folklore, but the need to pass on information and entertain is still a key element of what makes us human.

We all have stories to tell. We have all lived individual lives and learnt something unique along the way, something that can be shared with others. And most of us want to tell our stories because communication is another fundamental aspect of human nature.

On a final note, let’s wind back to the art of storytelling and what makes it successful. It’s all in the delivery. It’s how a story is told that separates the good storytellers from the great. After all, people will always listen to a good storyteller, but they will hang on every word of a great storyteller.

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