“What sort of things do you read out?”
“Could you do a reading for us?”
“Could you tell me the title of the book from which you are reading?”
Questions like these are a daily occurrence in my professional life.
This suggests to me that the art of narration is still not universally understood, or that people don’t fully know what narrative art actually means. That’s why I will try and throw some light on the concept of storytelling in the sense of an oral transmission of narrative material.
Storytelling mustn’t be confused with reading aloud or reciting.
The art of storytelling comes from a tradition that is thousands of years old: the oral heritage of stories. Storytellers carry with them all that they need: a head, an imagination, a body, hands, and a voice. They don’t require complex set designs or elaborate costumes, at most they might sometimes need an object. You could also say that storytelling is the smallest and most reduced form of a play.
They tell stories… freely, without reading or reciting… and take their listeners into the worlds that take shape inside their heads. The stories that they tell can be old or more recent: fairy tales, myths, legends, fables, anecdotes, experiences, short stories, jokes… true, made-up, sad, funny, long, short, thoughtful, entertaining…
They freely adapt their stories, even those that they didn’t make up themselves.
Free narration creates an intimate moment of interpersonal communication – the storyteller gifts his or her story to the listener. He or she brings the images to life inside the listener’s head, enables access to all sorts of experiences but never prescribes anything. While doing this, he or she is in close contact with the audience and is able to react to people while always staying within the narration.