Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Storytelling Essay

I'm taking a storytelling course. For one of the assignments I need to write an essay. I need to brainstorm a bit, so I'll do it here.

The topic of the essay is "storytelling" in the broadest sense. We can write on anything related to storytelling. I think I want to write about storytelling as it appears in my life.

What does that mean? Well, storytelling mostly shows up in my life in two forms: jokes and RPGs. How do I turn that into an essay?

I suppose I could compare telling stories to telling jokes. The selection, learning, and telling processes are pretty much identical. Jokes are (usually) just short stories with (hopefully) humorous punch lines as the endings. Each joke can be changed and retold in the teller's own way. There are good joke tellers and bad ones.

RPGs are where it gets a little tougher for me. To me an RPG is a collaborative, participatory, storytelling or story performance event. The Game Master (GM) selects a story and learns it, then begins telling the story to the players. But as the game progresses control of the story and the role of storyteller passes to different people at different times.

In some ways it is similar to when a Storyteller has audience members participate in the telling of a story. For example, in "Who's in Rabbit's House?" the storyteller can have several audience members take on the roles of the animals who come along to help Rabbit. In an RPG, the players are invited to take on the roles of characters in the story. However, there is a major difference. In "Who's in Rabbit's House" the participating audience members do not get to choose how their animals help, or decide that they don't want to help. In an RPG, the players and their characters have a much stronger and more direct impact on how the story develops and changes.

Looking back two paragraphs I see a great essay thesis: “an RPG is a collaborative, participatory, storytelling or story performance event.” To make it a complete essay I should probably touch on topics like: how is it similar to and different than a “traditional” storytelling event? How can RPGs be used in story hours? What purpose can they serve?

Hmm… do I really want to discuss the purpose of RPGs outside of entertainment?

Where was I? Right… RPGs as collaborative storytelling.
  • Storytelling in my life = Jokes & Collaborative
    • Jokes since a young age
      • Family - witty, one-liners, groaners
      • Earl - the story joke
    • Collaborative Stories
      • "Choose Your Own Adventure" with Dad
      • Play/imagination
    • RPGs
  • Jokes as short tales
    • Selection is the same: audience, language, content
    • Learning is the same: learn episodes, memorize only important phrases
    • Telling is the same: can be good/bad, make it your own
  • RPGs as collaborative telling
    • Selection is the same
    • Learning is the same
      • Learn episodes, don't memorize - things will change
    • Telling is similar with variations
      • Similarities
        • Set the mood, keep players interested
        • Can be formal, informal, telling, or performance
        • Need to plan for "event": ups, downs, tension and release, etc.
      • Differences
        • Level of participation is greater in RPG
        • RPG. Game. The purpose is mostly entertainment, escape.
  • How to use participatory collaborative stories?
    • [[refer to textbook]]

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