Storytelling in a Digital Age

Last updated 30 Dec 2016 . 4 min read

As a storyteller, who began as a blogger, the infinite possibilities that the digital medium bring to the creative process of storytelling fascinate me.  The linear, printed story is almost a relic of an age that is soon to be put behind us, and newer, more interactive mediums, that encompass the visual and the aural are upon us. The thing to be asked first though is, do we have a story to tell, before we begin to tell it.

Because that is where it all begins, as it should. With a story to tell. A story that is true and real and honest, and that wants to reach out and make its way across the minefield of the world wide web.

As humans, we began as storytellers around the fire, where myths were told and retold, tales of valour and love and heroism were recited. We passed the stories on, first orally, through the retelling, then when the language was written and scripts evolved, through stories written on stone, clay and paper, stories moved to the stage, the proscenium, the radio, to cinema, to the small screen. Folk stories, epics, love stories, soap operas, plays, comedies, tragedies, crime thrillers, block busters. There was a story for the audience who needed them. Stories went where people went. Because they needed to be told, and people needed to hear them.  We weave our personal narratives into the stories we consume, overlapping their edges, experiencing through them the emotions of joy, sorrow, fear, anger, hatred and more, until we reach the final destination that all good storytelling must provide, that of catharsis.

Why are stories important? Stories are the heartbeat of a culture. Stories have been used as parables, as rousers for a nation, as manifestos, as policy, as coming of age passages. An audience being transfixed by a storyteller, whether the reading of a book or the clicking of a YouTube channel link, is the human consciousness trying to make sense of the who we are and where do we come from, and what’s for lunch.

And now, with the digital age, the medium of storytelling and receiving stories is changing too. So is the democratisation of storytelling. Now everyone can tell their story. And if they are compelling enough, they will be heard. Blogs. Wattpad. E-readers. Kindle. Readers are reaching out to instant access, interactive stories, instant downloads and convenience, web-based stories, hypertexts, and narrative computer games, apps, multiformatted mediums of story telling, vlogging, microblogging sites like twitter, visual blogging sites, instagram, pinterest, vine, etc and so much more are emerging as new ways for anyone with access to content creators and a story to tell. The availability of new accessible media production techniques, software and hardware, digital recorders, camcorders and now even the simple handheld phone with wonderful downloadable apps, can now make everyone a digital storyteller. 

And with storytelling in the digital age, stories are getting shorter, crisper, as attention spans get shorter and selective, as noise drowns out concentration, the mediums are audiovisual and interactive, the story teller can custom make his story for the audience. New options are allowing the audience to choose how they would like the story to evolve. Virtual reality, is another new medium that allows for interactivity, a conversation between the story being told and the story being received. Traditional mediums like cinema are incorporating digital media to augment their stories, non-traditional media are used to create side stories and sub plots that people can access to get further into the narrative if they choose to. Stories are being crowd sourced, authors are asking readers to vote for alternative endings. We are in an exciting stage where things are evolving so quickly in the new mediums, it is all we can do to stand back from the tumultuous chaos of creation and watch on.

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Kiran Manral
Kiran Manral was a journalist before she quit to be full time mommy. Her blogs were both in India’s top blogs and she was a Tehelka blogger columnist on gender issues. Her debut novel, The Reluctant Detective, was published by Westland in 2012 and her second novel Once Upon A Crush, was published by Leadstart in 2014. Her third book is due out in August 2015 from Penguin Random House. She is on the planning board of the Kumaon Literary Festival and is an advisor on the Board of Literature Studio, Delhi. She was awarded the Women Achievers award by Young Environmentalists Group in 2013. She lives in Mumbai with her family and counts every day off the Nutella wagon as a successful day.

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