Erika’s Travel Blog on Connections in Storytelling

Over the first few weeks of this course, I have realized how important storytelling is to our daily lives. The more we read, discussed and looked into storytelling I kept focusing on how storytelling is used to form connections. People often connect to others by using their own stories and experiences. This reminded me of our daily create assignments. We all interpret the prompt given to us, form a connection and use our personal experiences to create something that reflects what the prompt is asking for and our own story. For me, reflecting back on what I have created, I realized that each of the daily creates have shared a little bit about my own personal story. My daily create for the prompt of youth literature is below:

This daily create shared a little bit about my childhood. It does not inform on what my entire childhood was like; however, it does share more information about my personal story. What I was interested in reading is a reflection of the generation I grew up in and what was popular at the time. Other participants in the daily create that grew up during the same or similar generation formed a connection with my daily create and my personal experience having a similar experience of their own. We crave connections even if it is something as small as both loving Ms. Frizzel as children. If humans crave connecting with other people, it is easy to understand why the act of telling stories has always been a part of human nature. Stories can connect us. They help connect the present with the past and eventually they will connect to the future as they are persevered and retold by and to future generations. If forming connections is an essential part of storytelling, what causes an individual not to connect to a story? The main factors that determine if a story will create an adequate connection depend on the story, the delivery of the story and the storyteller.

As we explored the question, “what do we mean by story?” during the second week of the course we identified some of the critical aspects of storytelling. One of the first vital aspects of storytelling that we uncovered is having one main character for the audience to identify with. Additionally, we determined that the most compelling stories follow the same structure of having a beginning, middle and end. The beginning of a story usually introduces the conflict that the main character is dealing with in their lives and builds the tension of the story. The tension is building towards the climax or highest point of tension in the characters conflict. The highest point of tension usually occurs during the middle of a story.  Following the climax, is the resolution of conflict and ending of the story. The tension that is being created by the conflict in the characters life is usually how the audience connects to the story by relating their own experiences to the characters. Deana highlighted this in her statement:

But I realized he wasn’t usurping my narrative; he was building a connection between our stories.  His experiences were my experiences, and those collective commonalities makes the world a bit smaller.  Shared connections are the foundations of storytelling.  I was also struck by King’s assertion that stories make us who we are—how they influence our choices, our views, our purpose.

By building a shared connection between the audience and the story, the story’s meaning is going to have a more significant impact on the individual. When people are unable to relate to the experience or tension in the characters life, they are not going to be able to form a connection to the story. Without the connection, there is less of a chance that the story will be remembered and retold losing relevance to the individual.

The audience not only needs to connect to the story but also the storyteller if they are going to form a connection to the individual and their story adequately. It would be hard to relate and establish a connection if the storyteller does not fit the story they are telling. An example of this is, I can show students stories of drug-addicts and their fight with addiction, but these stories I have found are not as impactful as an actual drug-addict telling their story. When the story is being told by someone, who has experienced addiction first hand it automatically took addiction from a hypothetical to a real situation. Something that can happen not only to the storyteller but to the person listening in the audience. When the storyteller is speaking of an authentic experience, it makes it easier for the audience to form a connection. When the storyteller is not speaking from an authentic experience, I think it is harder for the story to be believable and the audience to form a connection. The individual storyteller along with the structure becomes an essential aspect of the audience’s ability to form a connection to the story.

Along with the structure of the story and the storyteller, the delivery of the story can also be a deciding factor in the audience’s ability to connect to the story. The delivery of the story includes how the storyteller tells the story. The storyteller’s word choice, tone, hand gestures, movements and overall presentation of the story is going to determine how successful the story and storyteller is. Kat’s focus this week is on the delivery of stories, and I am very interested to see if our thoughts overlap. She states that she wants to focus on the delivery of stories because “I think the delivery can actually guarantee the connections.” I agree that without a good delivery of the story will guarantee the connections. I think that we have all been in a situation where we have heard a good story that would have been better if someone else or a better storyteller had told it. If the storyteller forgets or does not deliver the story well it does not matter how good the story is; the audience will not connect to the story like they need to. This is not to say that the audience does not have their own responsibility to be open and willing to form a connection to the storyteller. Allowing the audience to interact with the story and/or the storyteller can help facilitate the start of the connection.

5 Comments

  1. kgeuea

    I like it! I especially like the way you draw connections from the daily create. I didn’t think about how much of who we are actually comes through in our interpretation of the prompt.

    I agree with you that connections are stronger when authenticity is involved. Even in the classroom, the best stories are the ones I have the most passion for (Henry VIIIth and Elizabeth for example). Nicely done!

  2. Rebecca Williams

    “If forming connections is an essential part of storytelling, what causes an individual not to connect to a story?” This is a great question. I like how you answered it by showing the connection, or lack there of, to the authenticity of the storyteller, and their connection to the story. In some ways this reminds me of those simple sociology experiments where they create a story with the stereotypical character for the event, or a non-stereotypical character. If the storyteller isn’t authentic as perceived by the audience, there is a disconnect. There are disconnects in daily life. It’s fascinating to think of them in terms of whether or not we believe their stories. This was a very interesting question for me to think about.

  3. Kendell Newman

    This is a well-organized and argued essay and you do a nice job of demonstrating your points by sharing personal examples. I don’t think we watched this video of Kurt Vonnegut famously lecturing on “The Shapes of Stories”, but it fits with and might help you elaborate on some of your ideas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP3c1h8v2ZQ

    My question at the end of this essay is: Does an audience have any responsibility to form a connection to the story? Or is this responsibility left entirely to the storyteller? Can we not expect — demand, even — that the audience try to connect to a story, even when some of the low-hanging fruit of connection isn’t there?

    To put this in a different context, I’m thinking about making dinner for my family. I know, generally, what they like and what they don’t, and I balance that with what I know we all need (balanced, healthy eating). I’m the storyteller of the dinner menu. If I set a plate on the table and my son refuses to eat something, I tell him he needs to try it. He needs to put in some effort, take a step toward me in this connection we are making over food. And actually, I’ve found that he eats much more adventurously if he’s involved in the cooking process. When I apply this mealtime dynamic to storytelling, I want to say we can expect more of an audience — and possibly that one way of getting more is by involving them. What do you think?

  4. ejhorn

    Kendall, I completely agree that the audience has a responsibility to be open to and willing to form a connection to the storyteller. I reread my post after reading the comments and I did primarily focus on what the storyteller needs to do to form a connection with the audience and not the responsibility of an audience. I would say involving the audience would be a great way to hook or spark the
    audiences interest in the storyteller. Once they have been hooked, the audience would be more likely to be open and willing to connect to the storyteller?

  5. Chris Fliss

    When I read your blog, I saw a connection in your daily creates. You explained a piece of your childhood. I feel that whenever we share a piece of our selves in a narrative, our fellow man often has an easier time relating to our authentic sharing of a story versus a completely fictional tale. Later on in your post, you asserted that a shared connection is the foundation of story telling. I think because of shared connections, audiences can be more immersed in the story, I feel this way since they can relate to it. As a result, the story, can take a step closer to becoming timeless.

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