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Fundamentals of Storytelling


Glocal After School (GAS) conducted a live session on the topic- “Fundamentals of Storytelling” on 20th of May 2020. The live session was conducted by Mr. Benislos Thushan, Founder and Chief Instructor at Digital Storytelling from Sri Lanka. Mr. Thushan has been conducting storytelling sessions in Sri Lanka for more than 4 years and has trained more than 1000 students.

Digital Storytelling is a buzzword in today’s digital era. If you look at the company, brands, or educational institutions, different other platforms, everyone is interested in story-telling and everyone wants to have a piece of the pie. On the live session, Mr. Thushan explained, storytelling as the process of communicating ideas to the audience through storytellers. He even gave an example using a quote by Robert McKee,“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put the ideas into the world today”. He further explained storytelling by an example of life. Our relationship with storytelling starts from the age we are infants as we are exposed to many stories by our parents and by the surrounding around us. 

The best way to convey a successful story is through effective communication with the audience. Effectiveness of storytelling can be evaluated based on the impact of the story on the life of the audience. The story must be relatable to the everyday life of the audience. Understanding the process of storytelling includes two agents first, `storyteller´ and second `audience´ whereas different ideas, information, emotions, etc be the means or process of storytelling. 

He shared that- a story which makes an impact on the audience for decades is successful storytelling. He explained narrative as an important role to make people understand and define the story. We can simply see the narrative of a story in a simple sentence, he added. Before conveying your message, you must know about who is a storyteller (narrator)? Who is the audience? The story may be manipulated according to the narrative’s point of view either a positive viewpoint or a negative viewpoint. That’s why narrative is a heart of story-telling. Therefore, the narrative is also a driving the force of the story.

He even explained tools of storytelling and its importance. There are many tools used in storytelling. For example, for a presentation, we use different clipart as tools. Similarly, pictures & cartoons, etc. are tools for a presentation. Tools for storytelling also play a significant role to facilitate narrative to convey the message (might be a picture or any other tools). It might also be song, music, action, etc, in a movie. The actor can be considered as a tool (cast) as well as the director as a narrative to comprehend the story to the audience. These days’ memories are also one of the main effective tools of storytelling. The best tools in digital story-telling include mobile photography and Digital graffiti (MEMES) which helps to convey information most efficiently even to uneducated ones. It is interesting, and one of the effective tools to simplify complex ideas into simple ones. 

There has been a huge paradigm shift in storytelling from the 1970s to 2020. As we talk about 1970, a certain group of people used to categorize the storyteller, and there used to be a very limited audience but now in 2020, all rules are broken. Everyone has access to tell their story. The paradigm-shifting in storytelling leads to the democratization of story-telling. There are certain attributes in this paradigm-shifting such as the internet revolution. Internet revolution empowering people to reach out to the millions of audiences. Therefore, they have been medium to the narrative spiking the attention, liberating the audience, and connecting the people miles away throughout the world. Besides this, the smartphone revolution has also brought historic momentum providing the platform to everyone to own it and use it, to tell their stories that were limited to the big box, i.e. computer. This was another revolution that accelerated the storytelling whereas the social media revolution came up connecting with the public to tell their stories.

The purpose of the storytelling bridges the gap between perception and reality; it brings people closer to reality and the reflection of community or idea to the targeted audience. For example, if a historical old tree fell due to cyclone you don’t need a news journalist you may simply click a picture from your smartphone and put on social media with a caption or may shoot short video having a conservation with elderly people who are familiar with that tree or associated with that community since long and put that on social media.

Storytelling is also a life skill. Don’t get afraid of comment and failure just start right from today, keep on trying and move on if you want to be a successful storyteller.