Storytelling Part 1: The Creation Story Where do Stories come from?

In the beginning there were only grunts. Grunts without form, and void, and there was silence where today we now have poetry, Twitter and TOWIE.

Yet the grunts of Man, were unlike those of his fellow creatures. Man’s sophisticated tongue allowed his grunts to travel, further, wider and faster.

And so Man hunted further, wider and faster too and found he then had downtime with Woman, Child and Tribe buddies of an evening.

And over the coming days, weeks and years, Man utilised around 80% of his brain for language and speech, and was able to talk about what had happened that day. And the tribe felt this chit chat before bed was good.

Man called the grunts “words”, and alone they were like pieces of data or information. Clunky and crude when isolated. Man could point at things, name them and state them as a fact. Sun. Fire. A CPM. An index number.

But Man soon used words as building blocks so they had a beginning a middle and an end.

Man built scenarios in which he was able to talk about one thing, but make it clear he was really talking about something else- something else more controversial, less tangible or more difficult to understand.

Man used words to do what no other creature (with the possible exceptions of dolphins) could do.

Man planned and imagined an alternative world. He could describe what COULD happen tomorrow.

So Man used words to make a likeness to something else that other Men recognised, to make the complicated familiar, the difficult reassuring.

Man used these likenesses, lightening in the sky to a warrior’s anger, “compare the market” to “compare the meerkat” for three reasons:

  1. Man made his messages memorable. Electrodes and market comparisons aren’t memorable. Thor’s adventures against the gods and Aleksandr and Sergi’s misadventures and expeditions are.
  2. Man made his messages influential. Woman, Child and Tribe had a tendency to like things they felt they had seen before.
  3. Man made his messages relevant. Man realised that when he made similarities to issues or events that were already happening in the tribe people were much more intrigued and interested.

Man called these connections and likenesses- metaphors, allegories, and stories. And he felt they were pretty good.

Man told many stories, of the sun, love and death, of monsters and the end of the world. He wrote his stories down, he drew pictures, made comics, made theatre and dance performances to create meaning through narratives with a beginning a middle and an end.

Soon the world evolved so much that new challenges arrived. Man had so many data points to choose from, and so many people telling stories that it was difficult for Man not only to decide which building blocks he wanted to use but also how to make his story heard above the rabble of the global tribe.

But whilst the world had evolved dramatically, the foundations of making a message memorable, relevant and influential were the same. Which was not only good but also a relief.

So Man used the same techniques to tell stories online, to entertain and persuade, as he had for thousands of years.

Next: Storytelling Part 2: The Story-House that Jack Built

Written for SMG’s 2014 Beyond Digital Week