Drums Around the Fire: Why We Made Up Stories Then and How We Tell Them Now

Executive Description
This wiki will examine storytelling as both an ancient oral tradition and as the modern art of writing ficiton. I will look at the context, purpose, and execution of "making up stories" in both traditions.


Over the next ten weeks, I will build a wiki that will reflect the nature of early storytelling from its sacred roots within the context of "myth" and religion, into the secular craft we enjoy today. The first part of my research will involve a brief look into storytelling of the past--why people told stories, when people told stories, and how peolple told stories. I plan to pay special attention to tribal societies, such as those of North America and Africa.

The next part will entail a look at storytelling as it is practiced today. Through reading works on the craft of fiction, I hope to further understand the modern storyteller; what devices, conventions, and practices they use to reach their audience. I hope also to discover how writers view themselves and their work--are they an extension of an ancient tradition, or are they innovators working within a unique context?

I plan on responding to historical research on the cross-cultural importance of storytelling, as well as modern books on the craft of fiction writing, and in doing so, will emerge with a greater sense of place for the storytellers of today--essentially how we got here and why we keep the tradition going. Entries will be made in the form of essays explaining material I've encountered on the subject, as well as my own insights on storytelling and writing.

Since writers enjoy writing about writing, there will be plenty of opportunities to link to other blogs about the craft, as well as electronic articles on the subject. I have several paper sources in mind that I would like to explore throughout this project. These include Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury; On Writing, by Stephen King; The Art of Fiction, by John C. Gardner; Burning Down the House, by Charles Baxter; The Way of the Storyteller, by Ruth Sawyer, and others that will arise as the project develops.

Contracting for Points

I plan to post a minumum of three times per week. I would like weekly posts organized thus in order to keep the "then" and "now" discussions balanced: one post on the historical role of storytelling; one post on modern craft; one post responding to a quote concerning the art of storytelling/writing. Further postings will be made as appropriate. Since I will be responding to many readings as well as recording personal insights, I envision posts ranging from 250 word observations to 1000+ word essays. Taking into account the amount of reading and research that will go into this project, I will contract for 1000 points.


Monday, 26 March. Mid-term: have written 3-5 weekly postings, begin to wield working knowledge of the background of storytelling in a few ancient cultures; also become familiar with modern theory on writing fiction.
Monday, 23 April: developed understanding of traditional storytelling, as well as a deeper understanding of modern fiction theory.
Monday, 30 April: ready to present on historical/cross cultural study of storytelling, and link modern thought on fiction to ancient ideas of the craft.

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