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Modern Storytelling


The stories are full of clearly defined incidents, and peopled by rather flat characters with little or no interior life. When the supernatural occurs, it is presented matter-of-factly, without surprise. Indeed, there is very little affect, generally; bloodcurdling events may take place, but with little call for emotional response from the listener. (2)

Sagen, best translated as legends, are supposed to have actually happened, very often at a particular time and place, and they draw much of their power from this fact. When the supernatural intrudes (as it often does), it does so in an emotionally fraught manner. Ghost and lovers leap stories belong in this category, as do many UFO-stories, and stories of supernatural beings and events.

Stories of wise men are well known, such as Solomon and Nasreddin. Modern actors, singers, rappers and comedians can at times be storytellers. There is also a distinct kind of contemporary performer called storyteller who combines elements of these more mainstream professions together with several others, to create performances that are neither modern nor archaic. These performers may use traditional, original, or historical materials.

Organizational consultants and managers have also discovered the power of storytelling in organizations. A good story of organizational transformation in one organization might motivate similar organizations to change as well; also, the informal stories people tell to each other about organizational norms, policies and change initiatives permeate organizational culture and reflect the meaning people.

Though nearly all humans tell stories, many individuals have brought this skill to the level of art. Storytelling Festivals feature the work of these individuals. Elements of the storytelling art form include visualization (the seeing of images in the minds eye), and vocal and bodily gestures. In many ways, the art of storytelling draws upon other art forms such as acting, oral interpretation, and performance studies.

In the 1970s, the so called Renaissance of storytelling began in the U.S. and resulted in many performers becoming professional storytellers. Another result was the creation of the National Association for the Perpetuation and Preservation of Storytelling (NAPPS), now the National Storytelling Network. This professional organization helped to organize resources for tellers and festival planners. As of 2007, there are dozens of storytelling festivals and hundreds of professional storytellers around the world, and an international celebration of the art on World Storytelling Day, Robert

Begiebing et al (2004) summarize personal and professional experiences making successful modern films, novels, biographies, articles, museum displays, and poems. Even in these forms, storytellers try to create a sense of engagement or dialog with the audience. As a professor of English, Begiebing hypothesizes that the effective writer provides just enough clues to get the readers imagination, intellect, and emotional responses involved in figuring out what is going on in the story. The stories that last through the ages leave plenty up to the History museum expert Barbara Franco describes how good storytelling techniques can improve a museum exhibit.

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