Introduction to Storytelling

All complete stories exhibit two principal aspects: an underlying dramatic structure which contains the story's inherent meaning and a secondary meaning which is created by the manner in which that structure is presented in words and symbols. In practice, neither aspect of story can exist without the other, for a structure which has not been made tangible in some form cannot be communicated and similarly no mode of expression can be created without something to express.

The first half of this book explored The Elements Of Structure. Its purpose was to define the essential components that occur in the dramatic structure of all complete stories. These components fell into four principal categories: Character, Theme, Plot, and Genre.

This half of the book explores The Art Of Storytelling, which documents the process of conceptualizing and conveying a story. This process passes through four distinct stages: Storyforming, Storyencoding, Storyweaving, and Reception.

An author might begin either with Structure or Storytelling, depending upon his personal interests and/or style. If you come to a concept that is unfamiliar or unclear, you may wish to use the index to reference that topic in The Elements Of Structure or to take advantage of the extensive appendices at the back of the book.

The Four Stages of Communication

There are four stages of communication that stand between an author and an audience when a story is related. Stage one is Storyforming, in which the arrangement and sequence of dramatic appreciations are determined. Stage two is Encoding where the Storyform appreciations are translated into topics and events that symbolize the essential dramatic concepts in terms the author anticipates will have meaning to an audience. Stage three is Storyweaving, where all the independent illustrations are woven together into a synthesized whole that is the story as it will be presented to an audience. Stage four is Reception in which the audience assigns meaning to what they observe the work to be, hopefully decoding the intent of the author with some degree of accuracy.

The Four Stages of Communication

In bringing a story to an audience, through any media, there are four distinct stages of communication through which the story will pass. When an author is developing a story or looking for ways in which to improve it, a good idea is always to evaluate how the story is working at each of these stages individually. Problems can exist in any single stage or bridge across into many. Seeing where the problem lies is half the work of fixing it.

The Four Stages are:

Stage 1: Storyforming -- at which point the structural design and dynamic settings of an idea are conceived. This is where the original meaning of the story is born, the meaning which the author wants to communicate.

Stage 2: Storyencoding -- where the symbols with which the author will work are chosen. Stories are presented through characters, setting, and other particulars which are meant to symbolize the meaning of the story. No symbols are inherently part of any Storyform, so the choices of how a particular Storyform will be Storyencoded must be considered carefully.

Stage 3: Storyweaving -- where the author selects an order and emphasis to use in presenting his encoded story to his audience in the final work. The way in which to deliver a story to an audience, piece by piece, involves decisions about what to present first, second, and last. The potential strategies are countless: you may start with the beginning, as in Star Wars, or you my start with the end, as in Remains of the Day, or with some combination, as in The Usual Suspects. What you most want the audience to be thinking about will guide your decisions in this stage, because choices made here have the most effect on the experience of receiving the story as an audience member.

Stage 4: Reception -- where the audience takes over, interpreting the symbols they've received and making meaning of the story. The audience is a very active participant in its relationship with a story. It has preconceptions which affect how it will see anything you put in front of it. The audience is presented with a finished, Storywoven work and hopes to be able to be able to interpret the work's symbols and decipher the Storyforming intent of the authors behind the work. The accuracy with which this is accomplished has a lot to do with how the story was developed in the other three stages of communication.

There are many ways to play with any one of these stages and many reasons for doing so. It all depends on what impact the author wants to make with his work.

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