I’m behind in my story-collecting. For a couple reasons. First, my work got really busy over the past couple weeks; second, it’s been harder than I anticipated scheduling “sessions” with family members; and third, the form of the final product has been bugging me. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not sure how I’m going to navigate the the waters that divide the process of collecting stories told orally and the process of writing them down to be shared as text. I’ve been concerned about losing the essence of the stories, their humour, the stuff that makes me warm and fuzzy inside when I hear them. And for the longest time, I was having trouble articulating what, precisely, this issue was. Perhaps it was clear to everyone else, but I felt I hadn’t quite put my finger on it; that it didn’t have a name.
And, finally I had my “Eureka!” moment (aided by Google’s search engine).
It’s the difference between storytelling and story-writing.
Obviously! Of course, everything is obvious in hindsight. With the new-found “name” for my dilemma, I began doing some more targeted web searches and have found some interesting resources I hope to explore further through self-study in the coming weeks and in my second interview with a qualitative researcher (scheduled for tomorrow!).
The first is an article by Canadian storyteller and story-writer Rukhsana Khan. As I read her article, I was literally saying “Yes, of course!” in agreement. It’s like she was finally articulating all the little questions and doubts I had in my mind.
The second is an article by Steve Denning who writes about business, innovation and management through the lens of storytelling.
Finally, this research report published by the Ontario Ministry of Education which explains how storytelling, oral rehearsal and discussion can help students, particularly reluctant writers, to write better stories.
In essence, you can’t tell and write a story in the same way. Storytelling is way more flexible: the teller can incorporate body language, intonation, etc to communicate aspects of the story that the writer must painstakingly “show” using words. In storytelling, there is also the opportunity to connect with author in a way that is more challenging in story-writing. This is of particular concern for me because I am telling other people’s stories so I’m not really the author. All in all, the task before me is much more complicated than transcribing some stories. I have some decisions to make about how to tackle this beast with a new name and it may involve a lot more work than I originally anticipated. In any case, I feel like I’ve broken through a fog. It’s amazing what zest follows when it feels like I finally have the right words to ask the question that’s been on my mind for months! Wish me luck.