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The Password is “Storytelling”

To me, storytelling is the exaggeration of life, to prove a point. Regardless of the methods used, it seems that storytelling is meant to be as nonsensical as possible, provided the message is still clear enough in the end for the audience to understand. It also seems that, no matter how old they become over the years, the only way for readers to pay attention to the morals provided by the author, inadvertent or otherwise, is for the story to be over-the-top and zany.

For example, children’s stories, like Aesop’s fables, taught younger readers and listeners valuable lessons about life, and the importance of using common sense to solve your problems, instead of jumping to conclusions. They mostly did this by using talking animals, to represent the kind of people who would best fit in each situation. The lion gets himself caught in a net, and needs the help of a mouse, that he almost ate earlier, to escape. The tortoise turned down all of the potential distractions, leading to him winning the race, over the easily-swayed hare.

Young adult novels, on the other hand, especially in the last decade or so, are geared towards a more “complex” market, while still keeping the simplicity of Aesop’s fables. A troubled teenager helps one misunderstood outsider, if not several of them, see the error of their ways, ultimately by any means necessary, and be rewarded for it with their dreams come true. While the best-sellers of today may look like poorly-developed wish fulfillment, at best, the whimsy of Golden Books and Reading Rainbow are still there. Most of these modern franchises, like Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games, are just as guilty of Disneyesque fantasy fare as anything else that children used to learn to read, back when they were young.

Telling a good story all comes back to taking any event, real or fictional, and making it your own, so long as the lesson is learned. Comic book icon Stan Lee created the X-Men franchise as a morality play on oppressed minorities, in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement, with the intent of empowering them to be better than what many people still perceived them to be at the time. While Rocky Marciano is the only undefeated heavyweight champion in boxing history, Cassius Clay, better known as Muhammad Ali, is still considered to be the “Greatest of All Time,” because he told a believable story, of a gifted fighter’s rise to power, and fall from grace, throughout his active boxing career. Everyone is the writer of their own story, but no one’s going to read it unless something of value, and of substance, can be found when you read between the lines.

This does not change when the advent of digital storytelling comes in. If life is like a movie at times, then the modern storyteller has the potential to literally make a moving picture. Once the footage is edited on YouTube, and the soundtrack is provided by SoundCloud, you can premiere your new film on Vimeo, and promote it on Twitter, with a poster you uploaded on Flickr. However, while technology does simplify the job in the short run, and more effective in the long run, the way that stories are told hasn’t even gotten a facelift from this turn of events. While the images on the screen vary between sites, the opportunity continues to exist, and persist, for all kinds of media to show far more than what we normally see and hear, but the story that links everything together still has to be told. We can feel like we’re at the exact location that a story unfolded, hearing the witnesses call for help, seeing the worst possible things occur before our very eyes, but the story itself still has to be told. Even then, the audiences still won’t buy it if the message is incomprehensible enough to drag the production down. If anything, digital storytelling is like those special edition re-releases of popular films from decades ago. The film stock has been remastered, but the story, and its goal, stay the same.

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