The Power Of Storytime

Last week I was in charge of a curated Twitter account. I love Twitter, I find it perfect for banter and humour and creating communities. But it’s also an excellent medium for telling stories. Author Joanne Harris (@Joannechocolat) has shown just how great it can be with her Twitter fables, which she sometimes tells with the hashtag #storytime.

The nature of the medium – no Tweet can be more than 140 characters – forces a writer to compress thoughts, and in some ways it resembles that flat, straightforward style of the Icelandic sagas, which are wonderful pieces of storytelling.

The account I curated was Leeds-based, so I borrowed Joanne’s idea to create #leedsstorytime, a mix of folk tales, ghost stories and history. It proved more popular than I’d anticipated, and a few people have asked if I’ll continue it on my own account. More than anything, it got me thinking about the power of storytelling. Even if we don’t realise it, we need stories. We crave them. They’re part of the human fabric. When you recount an incident from last week or last year, you’re telling a story…

Learning that my son is taking a class in Greek mythology as part of his university Humanities requirement set me think further about this. The myths were vital. They explained the world, its creation (and death), the facets of people, from Trickster to Love. It put order in the world. Different peoples have their different mythologies. The one thing in common is that they all have them.

And we have stories. They’re beautiful things. We loved them as children when teachers or parents would tell them. They connect us with places and with the past. They have the magic that’s disappeared from so much of our lives. And, as my oral storytelling friends point out, they’re very different from what a writer does. Read a book is a very personal experience, and the words are set on the page. Oral storytelling is communal, and the story is a framework for the teller. It’s a little different every time it’s told. The difference between classical music and jazz, to a degree.

I hope Joanne Harris doesn’t mind me putting my own twist on the #storytime idea. I’d like to think not; after all, these old stories are there to be shared and passed on, to be kept alive. If you haven’t experience real storytelling, maybe you should. It’ll take you to different worlds than any book you’ll read and you’ll have a wonderful, shared time.