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Story Building vs Storytelling

Stories have given us some of the most powerfully multifaceted characteristics that defined our beliefs, ideologies and the way we see the world. From the religious scriptures that our societies have been founded on, to the musings of poetic literature from the Far East, Europe and South America, to advertising campaigns we are exposed to and the gossip we share everyday. The ‘story’ is undoubtedly one of the greatest compelling aspects we all share and are a part of.

For most of our existence, the story was in the hands of the few. Few knew how to write. Few knew how to read. More importantly, it was left in the hands of the few—the wise and elderly—to tell the story and pass it on from generation to generation.

But as time moved on, and as writers and artists and poets began to grow in numbers as literacy began to shift to the masses, we became explorers, authors, directors and ultimately, journalists, columnists, bloggers and tweeters.

The ‘story’ has withstood the testament of time.

Until recently, stories have only been told. And rewritten or adapted or rephrased to be told again. We were told the story and we took it for what it was, a piece of news, a wives’ tale, some juicy gossip. We were passive aspects to what had happened and not what was happening. However, this is all slowly changing.

The introduction of the web, blogging, social media and tweeting forever changed the dynamics of the story. Stories are still very much told and created. But we are all becoming part of the story. The story itself is a live element of the now and not simply a representation of the past.

We are no longer just storytellers. We are a growing number of story builders. A shift that has massively transitioned from the few hundred-paged stories Charles Dickens wrote and transformed to the 140-character tweets many of us participate in today.

The shift has also made the story real-time and interactive. Newspapers, magazines, books and anything else that represented ink on paper was kept at the vantage point of the author, the storyteller.Now, comments reign supreme. The story itself is as much a part of the actual contextual piece as it is in the comments that precede it. As we continually move away from the pillars that encompass the essence of our traditional understandings of stories, we move toward an interesting but strange world full of story builders.

Each and everyone of us who participate in any interactive and social media medium are actively building and shaping the story that is currently occurring.

Facebook offers a series of examples that are paramount to this. Our conversations, ‘likes’, shares and witty updates are all aspects to the story we are building. Not only have they culminated in the ‘wall-to-wall’ element, the ‘see friendship characteristic is an ongoing story from the very first interaction to the very last between two ‘friends’. And most recently, ‘sponsored stories’ are the culmination of everyday stories occurring before our eyes through growing socially interactive lives.

Stories and storytelling will always play a crucial role in our development. And that should never be forgotten. There is nothing more essential than reading your young child a great story book. But at the same time, we have to understand the changing direction of the winds.

The story has evolved into a live and living organism and one that is only confined to the extent we choose to create and build it. The prevailing and profound nature of story remains the same.

Now, you simply have to decide where you stand. Do you tell it or do you build it? Do you challenge it or do you conform to it? Do you sell it or do you enjoy it? The story is as much about the story as it is about everything else you decide to do with it.

This article was republished with kind permission from the author Josip Petrusa.

Written by Josip Petrusa

Josip Petrusa is a Toronto-based marketing and advertising professional. He blogs regularly at It's Josip not Joseph, mostly about ideas, marketing and conversation.
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