What is storytelling?

by Heather Hughes on August 16, 2017

Ngong'_Hills,_Nairobi,_Kenya

“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”

Are you drawn in, do you want to immerse yourself in this scene?

Isak Dinesen, a.k.a. Karen Blixen, was a teller of stories.

Much ado has been given to storytelling as of late. What is storytelling? What makes a great story, a memorable story, a moving story? Yes, moving as in a change of mind or motivating to feeling or action.

A story is not an articulate case, well laid out, for why one should consider x or embrace a instead of b. A story is more, yet somehow less. A story is lighter, filled with buoyant or heavy moments of understanding and experiences. Stories become shared experiences as they are told. Stories transport us, they free us to expand our thinking into new dimensions.

Any attempt to nail down what makes a story is an attempt to capture lightning in a bottle. That lightning is the vibrant, living, breathing human soul. The breath of life, neshemah.

As such, great stories come from people, not products, not solutions, not even brands. Did I just say that? Yes I did.

Our individual voices, in solo or in chorus, are what make the air sing, and ring, and liftoff with something worth hearing and something worth sharing.

Great stories are engaging, intriguing, edifying.

Isak Dinesen was a teller of stories. Her stories, as her soul, outlive her human frame. Like the air under Denys Finch-Hatton’s Moth machine, her stories have lift.

“But in the air you are taken into the full freedom of the three dimensions; after long ages of exile and dreams the homesick heart throws itself into the arms of space.”

This is all quite ethereal, you say. Well, yes, and no. The hard work of storytelling is what makes the telling of great stories so effortless.

Quotes are from Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen

Photo Credit: Siegmund Kamau/ CC-BY-SA-3.0; Ngong’ Hills, Nairobi, Kenya as viewed from Maasai Lodge, Ongata Rongai, Kenya

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