There has been a lot said about the power of stories in our own personal lives, as well as in business lately. But in our modern distracted world, where communication is instantaneous and gratification needs to be immediate, who really cares?
Engaging in any kind of story (books, films, games, even personal conversations) requires a real investment in time and energy, the kind that no one seems to have time for within the arms of an average day. As a writer, it’s often sad and frustrating to realize that very few people have time to read in our fast-paced world.
But for those of us that are willing to peel back the onion of a story, we may discover something magical and more meaningful than we ever imagined.
In the fields of both art and science, experts have long known the correlation between storytelling and the ways in which we communicate and learn. What’s really fascinating is how these relationships are changing, as human beings strive to share their stories in different ways.
New technologies, social media, and the entertainment industry are feeding our ever-present need to find meaning, driving people deeper and deeper into the vast ocean of storytelling.
Storytellers know that they now have a captive audience, just waiting and watching for the next great story to come along. But the new narrative need to resonate with a modern audience, tapping into the growing need for depth and meaning in myriad formats. Through books, film, gaming, streaming video and even social media, audiences crave for a meaningful narrative of which they can be a part, instead of just experiencing from afar.
In his book, “The Art of Immersion”, Frank Rose points out that we are at a crossroads for storytelling:
“We know this much: People want to be immersed. They want to get involved in a story, to carve out a role for themselves, to make it their own. But how is the author supposed to accommodate them? What if the audience runs away with the story? And how do we handle the blur — not just between fiction and fact, but between author and audience, entertainment and advertising, story and game? A lot of smart people — in film, in television, in videogames, in advertising, in technology, even in neuroscience — are trying to sort these questions out.”
Though we risk losing control of our stories, we also open up our narrative to organic growth and viral interpretation. Our job is to maintain the integrity of the narrative we created, while allowing for others to interpret, imitate or even parody our works across multimedia platforms.
There is the pivotal moment where art imitates life, life imitates art, and we discover both audiences and storytellers have delved deeper into the meaning of their own existence.
For over a decade, I’ve been on my own journey, striving to build a different literary universe that taps into regional folklore and legend, creating a new mythology for children, driven by the power of storytelling.
I coined the word Cryptofolk to describe this new universe.
Regional folk tales are often lost and obscured through time or remain localized within their specific community. These stories contain themes and archetypes that resonate across cultures and borders, providing an opportunity for others to learn and grow through the discovery of these powerful legends.
Cryptofolk (Crypto, from the Greek kryptós, meaning hidden and Folk, archaic for people or tribe) resurrects old and obscure folklore and legends from around the world. It uses descriptive narrative and various multimedia applications to present stories that are thought provoking, visually rich, and accessible to a global audience.
My mission is to demonstrate the power of storytelling through Cryptofolk — Telling Stories within the Stories of Myth and Legend.
You may ask, Why bother?
Well, what many of us fail to recognize is that all human memory is based in stories. Stories affect the way we live, work, think and relate to each other. We create meaning through the stories we tell and the stories we hear.
In his book, “Tell Me A Story,” Roger Shank concluded that “human memory is story-based.” This is a profoundly startling conclusion, as he points out:
“The importance of storytelling in human learning-and hence also the importance of oral histories-has been demonstrated in projects to program computers to create stories. Human beings store a large amount of information in story format. This information is not verbal, but situational. Schank concluded that “human memory is story-based.” This is a profoundly startling conclusion for a society that tends to think that the answer to every problem is more data.
Stories, then, according to the research in artificial intelligence are fundamental to how people learn and organize what they know. This relationship between stories and learning is largely unrecognized.”
J.R.R. Tolkien coined the word, “Mythopoeia,” used to describe a new, narrative genre in modern literature and film, where a fictional or artificial mythology is created by the writer of prose or other fiction.
In my mind, Cryptofolk works, using folkloric components and pieces. Every myth or legend is like a jewelry box I place throughout my stories. They are shiny, glittering things that add depth and meaning to the story at hand. But they also act as “mini-myths,” connecting the new storyline with traditional legends, creating pathways back and forth between the old and new mythologies.
Like Easter eggs in a video game, these “jewelry boxes” are part of the story, yet contain stories within themselves, encouraging the reader to dig deeper, and discover the fascinating layers hidden beneath.
It’s been a long, arduous journey filled with successes, failures and everything in between. And the end is far from sight. But as any good storyteller will attest, it’s all about the journey, not the destination.
So, is it really worth the bother to spend your life telling, sharing and collecting stories?
I’d say, “Yes, absolutely.”