Storytelling is one form of art that transcends medium. Whether in books, ballads, plays, or movies – even in sculptures, photographs or paintings – someone is telling a story. Someone is talking of life. Not Life on a grand scale but life in bits and pieces; seemingly mundane moments that give us glimpses of a bigger picture. Fleeting and ephemeral, once captured by an artist they are immortalized and frozen in time, lending themselves to be shared with other lives as well.
While different stories have vastly different scopes, the time it takes to tell a story somehow falls within a relatively narrow range. Most books have a few hundred pages and most movies last a few hours, but the stories they tell could either cover decades of world history – or a single eventful night in the lives of two people. And yet a beautifully told story is never a page too long, never a minute too short. It’s just as it should be.
Since storytelling time is limited, the story has to be compromised between breadth and depth. Naturally, epic tales cannot get too much into the individual lives of the characters, just as love stories seldom wander far beyond the interaction of a few people. But the storyteller somehow manages to piece the two together in perfect balance of breadth and depth, the former a background of the latter. And while not every second of the story can be told, the storyteller speeds up time and slows it down at just the right moments so that precious minutes are neither wasted nor skimped.
Imagine telling the story of a certain civilization and how it came about. If one were not to miss out a tiny detail, the story could not be finished within the listener’s lifetime, and so the trick is to secure only the salient points. On the other hand, a story that takes place within a shorter time than it takes to read it has to have something really interesting to sustain the reader’s attention. If every single moment, every spoken word is worthy of mention, telling the story will take just as long as the story itself. Now put every deep emotion, every unspoken thought, every subtle gesture, and there you have a story bigger than how it would have been in real life.
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This article was originally published at innerminds.wordpress.com. I re-posted it here to encourage other writers and storytellers to contribute to the FF blog, which seems to be having fewer new articles lately. In the FF Facebook Group, Ryan has been posting mostly articles from Friendly Atheist instead, so please write up guys. 🙂