What is storytelling (Paper from Video)

Bethany Bean

Digital Story Telling

Story Blog





Every day, we are building our own stories. We are connecting to others, building ourselves, ebbing and flowing through this world. This leads to the question what is a medium that brings people of different cultures, races, locations, languages together? Though arguably this answer could have many different answers, in this case, the answer is stories. There are the stories of our culture, the stories of our race, the stories based on locations, the stories specific to our native tongue, and stories that are for sheer entertainment. The question becomes what does a story need in order to be good? Though that answer could be different for everyone, there are some guidelines that weave together to make the foundation of great stories. Beyond a story that is ‘entertaining,’ as that consideration is subjective person to person, a work needs to have a reader that is willing to hear the work. The way it is told needs to be well written or well-spoken. Further, it needs to have a piece of humanity; something that makes it relatable to the reader.

Why are some willing to listen to one story but not another? For example, one of the students in this class has chosen to start reading the Harry Potter series with his children. This sparks the question to me of whether or not that family has read Little House on the Prarie as my mother read to me when I was falling asleep as a child. Though Laura Ingle’s life is entertaining, is it as connectable as Harry’s? The answer to why this specific series has stood the test of at least the last twenty years is that Harry’s quest, otherwise known as the “hero’s quest,” (Greater Good Magazine), is relatable to current society. There is just enough magic and muggle to create a world that is tangible for multiple generations to be invested in the journey that Harry and his peers face. 

According to Paul Zak’s article, How Stories Change the Brain, “A recent analysis identifies this “hero’s journey” story as the foundation for more than half of the movies that come out of Hollywood, and countless books of fiction and nonfiction[…]this structure is in the majority of the most-watched TED talks,” It’s a story that is relatable, one that a person can easily see themself fitting into. Though Harry’s Hogwarts World may not be realistic, is it easy to imagine inserting yourself into it? Yes. Why is that? It could be because there’s enough of reality to mix with the magic. Or, more than that, it could also be because at the core, Harry’s hero’s journey is relatable. There is a challenge, something that needs to be overcome, tragedy, friendship, sacrifice, and love. Though Harry Potter is only one series, there are a plethora of examples as Zak says that follow this same formula. Is the hero’s journey one that makes a story good? If relatable is good, then the argument is leaning towards yes. The next focus on what makes a story ‘good’ is the pace or tempo in which it is presented to the reader. 

Author Thomas King in The Truth About Stories within the first few pages draws the reader in. Sharing of his life, how he knew his mother. How the father was not in the picture. How is this ‘story’ not relatable? Thomas retells the story pacing it as, “My brother took a long time telling this story, drawing out the details, repeating the good parts, making me wait…It took him two days. Robert King was alive and well, in Illinois. Christopher stopped at this point in the story to let me catch my breath…That’s the good news, my brother told me. One of the tricks to storytelling is, never tell everything all at once…” (King 7). In just a short amount of pages, King has already made his work relatable, and paced it well for the reader. He could have just shared within a few sentences what happened, but like his brother, he told the story. Pausing in the correct places, paced it so that the reader is invested in knowing and therefore reading on to find out what happened. Finally, a way to make a story ‘good’ is the humanity a piece that we connect to.

King states on page thirty-two, “The truth about stories is that’s all we are. You can’t understand the story without telling a story….there isn’t any center to the world but a story,” (King, 32). Very simplistically, every human does not just have but is a story. Therefore, being able to connect with one another is arguably the most important part of storytelling. Chances are, there is one other person on the face of the earth that can relate to the story that one is telling. Another medium of communication or storytelling beyond the pages of a book is through a digital platform. Pictures working in conjunction with speech allows for this. One example of this comes from last week when we were tasked with watching digital stories. There were a lot of videos to choose from; the one that was used for the assignment, the one that I connected with was Daddy’s Girl. The reason that there is a connection to this story is that it relates to me. My husband probably would not relate to it, and I would probably not relate to one on a family that he would choose. Therefore, when thinking about how to move forward with what story I wanted to tell this week with Adobe Spark, I chose to emulate Daddy’s Girl. I chose to write a story that focused on what is the most important part to me, my family. 

What I wanted to do with my Adobe Spark video was to connect to those people in a few different ways. Like the readings over the past few weeks have taught us to think about the main question that I kept in mind while considering this project was, what are some different ways that I could make a mini-autobiography and make it one that others could connect with? One way that there is relatability is to the children who had parents who survived biological parents that are drug users. The second is to connect to those who are abuse victims. Third, those that were raised by those who were not raised by biological parents. Fourth, and most importantly, those who, with the help of others, have been able to make something of themselves with the help of those who raised them, even if unconventional. I was able to put my own hero’s journey into about two minutes. 

Moreover, I was able to put pictures of those that impacted my life in the video to help narrate my story like was done in Daddy’s Girl. The use of these pictures, I think, connects my audience more to my or our humanity. It is easy to hear a story about a survivor and someone who succeeds, but what connection can be made when looking at the person who caused so much damage? I searched my archives to look at the man who caused so much pain in my life. I shared that photo, maybe it caused others to consider a person who also hurt them. What is it like to see the family that came in to heal the holes? I added photos of a happy childhood, those who were instrumental in making my life one that was full of love.  What do the images of love and caring bring up for them when considering those that they cherish? In Daddy’s Girl, though the author shared pictures of her family, specifically her father, I was thinking about my own, specifically my biological father and grandfather. Does this medium help make my story a good one? Maybe. Would the way I would write it make it better? Probably. However, in terms of relatability, I think that that goal has been accomplished. 

In answering the main question of what does a story needs to be good, the answer is as simple as connectivity, relatability, and solid narration. How can one write or narrate a story in such a way that will draw someone in to make that connection? One way that is considered the foundation of multiple platforms is the ‘hero’s journey.’ Another ingredient is the pacing in which the story is told. It would be easy to just say the whole story within a few sentences, but how to draw it out is just as important as the subject. When considering presenting our own stories, how do we go about doing that? Though there is writing, a more modern version is through the use of media. Combining music, text, audio, and pictures, one can create a mini-documentary to share their work. In choosing what to share, I chose to tell a personal story that could connect to multiple people. King ascertains that stories are what we are. I take this to mean that as individuals our makeup is little combinations of stories strung together to make a whole. What is your story?


  1. Deni Krueger

    As I was reading, the mention of different cultures/races/etc. made me wonder if the hero’s journey is more prevalent in stories in Western culture, or if it’s appeal crosses those boundaries and has equal appeal. Or is it my Western culture upbringing that shapes me to look at something as if it’s a hero’s journey?

    I would love to see your video if you are willing to share it.

  2. Melissa A. Benson

    I completely agree that our personal stories identify who we are, when all the event are pieced together creates the story that explain our place in the world. The good moments and the not so good moments. Without them we wouldn’t be who we are. Without my dad’s struggles, maybe he wouldn’t have been so supportive of his children’s dreams.

    I like that you include your thoughts about race/culture…. because it seems that stories is something that all cultures have in common. the narrative might be different, but they all have their own stories and people connect over them.

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