social and cultural activity of sharing stories, often with improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment
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Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, images and sounds, often by improvisation or embellishment. Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and in order to instill moral values. Crucial elements of stories and storytelling include plot, characters and narrative point of view.

The Boyhood of Raleigh by Sir John Everett Millais, oil on canvas, 1870.
A seafarer tells the young Sir Walter Raleigh and his brother the story of what happened out at sea

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  • And he said, 'Sit down then, that I may give you my story from the beginning until now.' And he said, 'Give it me, I am already set down.'
    • Edward Steere (tr.), Swahili Tales (1870), "The Story of Hasseebu Kareem ed Deen and the King of the Snakes," p. 349.
(Akamwambia, kaa kitako bassi, nikupe kisa changu toka mwanzo hatta sasa. Akamwambia, nipe, nimekwisha kaa kitako.)
  • The storyteller is a man who has counsel for his readers. But if today "having counsel" is beginning to have an old-fashioned ring, this is because the communicability of experience is decreasing. In consequence we have no counsel either for ourselves or for others. After all, counsel is less an answer to a question than a proposal concerning the continuation of a story which is just unfolding. To seek this counsel one would first have to be able to tell the story. ... Counsel woven into the fabric of real life is wisdom. The art of storytelling is reaching its end because the epic side of truth, wisdom, is dying out.
  • A story, in which native humour reigns,
    Is often useful, always entertains;
    A graver fact, enlisted on your side,
    May furnish illustration, well applied;
    But sedentary weavers of long tales
    Give me the fidgets, and my patience fails.
  • “Heroic fantasy” is the name of a class of stories laid, not in the world as it is or was or will be, but as it ought to have been to make a good story. The tales collected under this name are adventure-fantasies, laid in imaginary prehistoric or medieval worlds, when (it’s fun to imagine) all men were mighty, all women were beautiful, all problems were simple, and all life was adventurous. In such a world, gleaming cities raise their shining spires against the stars; sorcerers cast sinister spells from subterranean lairs; baleful spirits stalk crumbling ruins; primeval monsters crash through jungle thickets; and the fate of kingdoms is balanced on the bloody blades of broadswords brandished by heroes of preternatural might and valor.
    The purpose of these stories is neither to teach the problems of the steel industry, nor to expose the defects in our foreign-aid program, nor yet to air the problems of the housewife. It is to entertain. These stories combine the color, gore, and action of the costume novel with the atavistic terrors and delights of the fairy tale. They furnish the purest fun to be found in fiction today.
    Heroic fantasy is escape reading in which you escape clear out of the real universe. But, come to think of it, these tales are not a bit more “unreal” than any of the hundreds of whodunnits wherein, after the stupid cops have fallen over their own big feet, the brilliant amateur—a private detective, a newspaper reporter, or a little old lady—steps in and solves the crime.
    • L. Sprague de Camp, Swords & Sorcery (1963), Pyramid Books R-950, first printing, Introduction (p. 7)
  • Now, the main purpose of the storyteller was to entertain. He might also try to point a moral, or teach a fact, or expound his faith or philosophy, or startle his hearers by some novel idea or trick, or exorcise his private demons by putting them into story form. But all these purposes remained secondary to the main one: to entertain. The storyteller who put one of these other elements first soon found himself addressing empty air; and empty air would drop no drachmai or rupees into his cap.
    In the last century, alas, more and more storytellers have felt that they should place one of these secondary aims first, ahead of entertaining the reader. In the early years of this century we had a flood of novels of social problems—should an heiress marry her chauffeur? Then came stories exposing conditions in this or that industry, or baiting the booboisie. Then there were the proletarian novels, setting forth the evils of capitalism, and hailing the Great Red Dawn. More recently, we have had case studies of abnormal psychology thinly disguised as fiction. We have had stories that reduce human beings to animated sets of genitalia with legs and other parts vaguely attached. We have had stories whose heroes are human zeros—dull, pathetic little jerks with neither brains, brawn, nor character. We have had stories in which the words and sentences seem to be strung together at random, so that it would take a cryptographer to recover the meaning, if any…
    Now, these are all very well for those who like that sort of thing. Judging from sales figures, many do. However, some still like a story for the sake of the story. When they read fiction, they want first of all to be entertained—not instructed, uplifted, converted, incited, warned of the doom to come, or forced to admit what a monstrous clever fellow the writer is—but entertained. For those who put entertainment first, heroic fantasy offers it in its purest form.
    Of course, to enjoy a story of this kind, one needs some slight imagination. One must be able to suspend one’s disbelief in ghoulies and ghosties and other denizens of the worlds of fantasy. However, if the reader can believe in international spies who race about in super-powered cars from one posh gambling joint to another and find a beautiful babe awaiting them in bed at each stop, a few dragons and demons should not bother him.
    • L. Sprague de Camp, The Fantastic Swordsmen (1967), Pyramid Books R-1621, first printing, Introduction (pp. 9-10)
  • When thou dost tell another's jest, therein
    Omit the oaths, which true wit cannot need;
    Pick out of tales the mirth, but not the sin.
  • Whether they believe the story or not, they delight to tell it.
  • Tyler Weitzman, CEO of BlackSMS, likes to research social situations. As an undergrad at Stanford, he researched a method for conveying one’s achievements (or bragging, if you prefer!) while remaining humble and relatable. Through countless interviews of master storytellers, Tyler determined the ultimate structure for telling one’s story in a humble way:
    - Credit: “It could not have happened without [name the others involved].”
    - Hard Work: “We had to put in so much to make it happen, for example, [describe the hard work].”
    - Vulnerability: “It was most difficult for me when…”
    - Duty: “We were driven by our dream to [noble motive].”
    - Gratitude: “I am so proud and thankful that…”
    I encourage you to tell your story to a friend using this exact structure. See what comes out. Ask your friend for her reaction. I think you will be amazed.
  • We now come to the most important of all the writer's problems. It is the very heart of story technique. And the proof is that the world and his wife go to the movies to be entertained, excited, and stirred emotionally in any pleasant manner. Hence, the presentation of emotions and the arousing of emotions are the main duty of the picture artist, whether he be the story writer, the director, or the actor.
    Probably nine out of ten stories which fail to sell in Hollywood contain some serious defect in emotional handling. It may be an error in the drawing of an emotion, or it may be the telling of events which cannot arouse pleasant emotions in the spectators. Few would- be authors have studied human feelings and emotions thoroughly. And still fewer are born with sensitivities which enable them to intuit this phase of man's nature, apart from all orderly observation and analysis.
  • I cannot tell how the truth may be;
    I say the tale as 'twas said to me.
    • Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), Canto II, Stanza 22.
  • I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
    Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
    Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
    Thy knotted and combined locks to part
    And each particular hair to stand on end,
    Like quills upon the fretful porpentine.
  • Which his fair tongue—conceit's expositor—
    Delivers in such apt and gracious words,
    That aged ears play truant at his tales,
    And younger hearings are quite ravished.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 755.
  • In this spacious isle I think there is not one
    But he hath heard some talk of Hood and Little John,
    Of Tuck, the merry friar, which many a sermon made
    In praise of Robin Hood, his outlaws, and their trade.
  • This story will never go down.
  • Ich weiss nicht was soll es bedeuten,
    Dass ich so traurig bin:
    Ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten
    Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.
    • In vain would I seek to discover
      Why sad and mournful am I,
      My thoughts without ceasing brood over
      A tale of the times gone by.
    • Heinrich Heine, Die Lorelei. E. A. Bowring's translation.
  • Soft as some song divine, thy story flows.
    • Homer, The Odyssey, Book XI, line 458. Pope's translation.
  • I hate
    To tell again a tale once fully told.
    • Homer, The Odyssey, Book XII, line 566. Bryant's translation.
  • And what so tedious as a twice-told tale.
    • Homer, The Odyssey, Book XII. Last line. Pope's translation.
  • Quid rides?
    Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur.
    • Why do you laugh? Change but the name, and the story is told of yourself.
    • Horace, Satires, I. 1. 69.
  • But that's another story.
    • Rudyard Kipling, Mulvaney, Soldiers Three. Farquhar, Recruiting Officer, last scene. Sterne, Tristram Shandy, Chapter XVII.
  • It is a foolish thing to make a long prologue, and to be short in the story itself.
    • II Maccabees, II. 32.
  • An' all us other children, when the supper things is done,
    We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun
    A-list'nin' to the witch tales 'at Annie tells about
    An' the gobble-uns 'at gits you
    Ef you
  • For seldom shall she hear a tale
    So sad, so tender, yet so true.
  • With a tale forsooth he cometh unto you, with a tale which holdeth children from play, and old men from the chimney corner.
  • In after-dinner talk,
    Across the walnuts and the wine.

See also

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