Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Evolution of the Story

After discussions with friends and social media followers, it became more clear to me a distinct divide between readers. Some readers prefer books and books alone. I prefer books — there's something special about holding a brand new paperback with a matte cover that smells like ink and paper. But I also don't just stick to books. Let me explain.

Some — before I became an art major, I may have been one of these — argue that stories come in books and books alone. That there must be words on a page to constitute a real story written by a real writer. And that only writers, and good ones that have experience and sit behind a typewriter, can be counted as true novelists with true stories.

As we are well on our way to the technology of the future, it's becoming clear that this is not the case. No longer do writers have to type out their books and edit manuscripts and get books printed. I'm not bashing books — they're literally my favorite things — but writers are getting more creative than ever before in how they tell their stories to an audience.

Podcasting, which really began to take off in 2004, became a new medium for radio broadcasters and musicians, but recently, writers and storytellers have begun to create their own podcast. Commonplace Books' "Welcome to NightVale" is an innovative, creative, and original podcast created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. It features a radio host of a fictional town called NightVale who reports on safety concerns for citizens such as to stay away from the dog park and to beware of the hooded figures and the glow cloud that always seem to be looming over the city. Shrouded in mystery with a touch of humor, its creators rely on the community's support and donations because their podcast is entirely free. Twice a month, listeners can find out about how the town is doing or what Old Woman Josie saw/heard this time or who got sucked into the sandstorm (don't worry, you're just as confused as the rest of those who listen regularly).

Free Podcasting gives writers and creators the freedom to create their own stories without editorial staff, agents, publishers, or anyone else requiring them to meet certain restrictions or regulations based on their creations. What they write is entirely up to them.

But it's not just audio that's taking the cake for new story forms. Visual arts are working their way into stories as well. Art has always been a form of storytelling, but Shelley Jackson, a writer and artist, earlier this year began composing a story word by word in the snow near her home in Brooklyn. Each word is written uniformly and in beautiful serif typefaces, which help bring focus to the traditional printed word. In 2003, she featured a novella written in tattoos on volunteers for the project, expertly combining visual arts with the beauty of the written word, proving over and over again that stories can be more than just books. Her work-in-progress snow story can be found on her Instagram.

Even Twitter joined in the fun, with Penguin's contest to win a few books ended up being a hit featuring #TwitterLoveStory.
Authors, readers, and everyone in between began posting their own love stories, and some were gut-wrenchingly beautiful for less than 140 characters. In fact, they had to be less than 124 characters because of the hashtag. Some were weird, some were funny, and some were true, but they were all stories, summed up in a single sentence.

To those who say social media stories are ridiculous, I present to you Ernest Hemingway's six-word story: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

It doesn't matter the outlet or the media the story is being presented in, all it matters is that it's a story and it's getting told. And while books will forever be my favorite, I am also unbelievably glad I am a writer and an artist living in the time that I do because of how wonderful and amazing the Internet and social connection can be for the community. Stories are ultimately what unite us as humans. We share them with one another, and we love to have them shared with us. And I also cannot wait to see what lies ahead in terms of new ways of storytelling. Every story is a work of art, and we're only getting more and more creative with how our stories should be told to the world.

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