Importance of Storytelling

Importance Of Storytelling

For National Storytelling Week, Writer Katherine Wiseman explores the importance of storytelling, and why storytelling is still essential today.

My mum is a huge Tom Jones fan – always has been, always will be. She thinks he’s a musical genius. She used to have a poster of him pinned to the inside of her wardrobe door. She had to take it down in the end. It was getting suspiciously frayed around Tom’s lip area.

We grew up on Tom’s hits. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve performed heart-rending interpretations of Delilah that reduced my audience to tears. Another of Tom’s classics that left an indelible imprint on my mind was called The Young New Mexican Puppeteer. It told the story of a young man who used puppets to highlight injustice and bring about social change. I know I’m not making it sound like a whole lot of fun, and maybe it isn’t quite in the top bracket of Tom’s many hits, but bear with me here.

The tale of that socially aware puppeteer was carrying on a tradition of inspirational storytelling that goes way back into unrecorded time. And storytelling has always been used to reflect and question and to guide. Ancient Egyptians painted their tombs and temples with pictures of their gods and rulers passing judgement and smiting their enemies, just in case you were tempted to step out of line. (By the way, smite is a word that deserves wider usage, don’t you think? I’m going to try and use it every day.) The Bible is crammed with parables and in medieval times, when your average peasant couldn’t write his own name let alone read the Bible (in Latin), church walls were painted with flamboyant scenes of heaven and lurid (and that’s putting it nicely) ones of Hell.

As the ability to read became the norm rather than a luxury, at least in the privileged west, the printed word has taken over from visual storytelling. And stories can’t help but provide a mirror to society. It’s inevitable. What you see and experience around you informs what comes out of your pen or, more probably these days, out of your keyboard.

Because we human beings are clever and complicated, we are able to draw comparisons even when books depict worlds very different to our own. Take Lord of the Rings. Much as I love being swept away into Middle Earth, I consider myself pretty fortunate that I don’t inhabit that world of slavering orcs (and I bet they smelled really bad) and malevolent, all-seeing eyes. But Tolkien's epic still holds a mirror to society. People suffer. They see evil and they strive to overcome it at great personal cost.

At the other end of the scale when it comes to epic writing, I write stories about Blaggard’s School for Tomorrows Tyrants, the world’s best educational establishment for trainee criminals. Just like Tolkien, I don’t actually live in the world I write about. I live a life of unrelenting honesty. Cross my heart. But Blaggard’s is a reflection of today’s ultra-material world.

"One must always be careful of books and what is inside them for words have the power to change us."

My protagonists are secret Dependables (non criminals) who have to find a way to fit into Blaggard’s, or be sent somewhere much, much worse. Milly and Charlie just aren’t prepared to follow the criminal herd and abandon their principles for a quiet a life. So what I’m really writing about, when you strip away the anarchy and weird gadgets and cackling villains, is staying true to yourself and overcoming setbacks. Just like in Middle Earth, good overcomes evil, somehow.

What I’m saying is that storytelling will never cease to be relevant. The importance of storytelling will not wane. Or even diminish in relevance. Through stories, we inspire and teach and bring about change. Cassandra Clare, who writers the Mortal Instruments series summed it up: one must always be careful of books and what is inside them for words have the power to change us. And the amazing thing is – they do it in a way that is enjoyable.

I’m going to finish by whizzing back to Tom Jones and that adolescent puppeteer. A song telling a story about someone who tells a story and changes people’s lives. That’s pretty epic. Genius, in fact. Tom Jones, my mum’s been right all the time – you’re a genius.

The importance of storytelling is clear. Katherine is a successful children's book author and her series featuring Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants, the world’s best school for trainee criminals, has been widely loved. For all her latest news visit https://katewiseman.uk/about/

Katherine Wiseman
Katherine is a successful children’s book author and her series featuring Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants, the world’s best school for trainee criminals, has been widely loved.
Featured in Social Enterprise
Sign Up for Updates
SIGN UP
You Might Also Like
Social EnterpriseSocial Enterprise
quotesquotes
We, from small communities to global networks, need entrepreneurs to build things that are less about making a profit, and more about contributing to society. This need led to the rise of social entrepreneurs; individuals who pay attention to the areas of lack in their communities and seek ways to […]
Social EnterpriseSocial Enterprise
projectsprojects
"I’m not leaving this toilet until we pre-sell $50,000 of product" So vowed Simon Griffiths, Co-founder of Who Gives A Crap on launching their IndieGoGo campaign.  That gets attention. And the story has all the classic hallmarks of never giving up.
Social EnterpriseSocial Enterprise
inspirationinspiration
Bounceworks is a company dedicated to making digital products that build emotional resilience and wellbeing amongst children. Our first project is Apart of Me; a safe, virtual space that helps children that have suffered bereavement. It’s a platform game for IOS and Android.
Social EnterpriseSocial Enterprise
inspirationinspiration
Microfinance enables people living in poverty to become financially independent. The benefits of ethical microloans really are striking. Simply put, they create jobs. Bryony from DEKI explains more about their mission and the technological developments transforming microfinance right now. 
Social EnterpriseSocial Enterprise
newsnews
Welcome to #TRVSTLOVES. We curate news, ideas and inspiration from across the world which demonstrate how real action can accomplish positive social impact. This time we’re looking at social enterprises, how they look to challenge the norm, improve communities and address social issues. 2020 trends for social enterprises What a […]
Social EnterpriseSocial Enterprise
inspirationinspiration
When most people think about investments, owning sustainable forests as a means of growing wealth reliably over time doesn’t usually come to mind.  Yet there has been growing recognition amongst discerning investors, that forests offer a plethora of unique benefits, which include real, stable returns over the long term that […]
Social EnterpriseSocial Enterprise
inspirationinspiration
Getting outside, having small adventures and experiencing the outdoors help promote wellbeing and inspire us to create change.
Social EnterpriseSocial Enterprise
inspirationinspiration
Staying motivated as a social entrepreneur or ambitious changemaker requires constant effort because all the great aspects of setting out and doing good in the world equally contribute to its downsides. Setting out on an entrepreneurial path requires focus and dedication. Here are 9 Tips to Staying Motivated Starting a […]