As we approach National Story Telling Week we want to honour our in-house Story Crafter & Author Bethany Joy Dawson.
When my sister stood in Casa Batlló in the centre of Barcelona, she had the strange sensation of having been there before. The irregular stone work that refused to follow straight lines brought back a memory of something that she could not quite place. It was not until she saw the roof terrace, rising like the hump of a dragon’s spine that it clicked: Jessica and Jennifer.
When I was seven and she was six, we shared a room. Every night when the lights went out, I told her stories about an underwater kingdom in which Jessica and Jennifer battled dragons for the survival of their city. Antoni Gaudi’s architectural masterpiece in Barcelona transported her to a world that I constructed from my childhood imagination.
This is the power of story.
However, I do not believe the strength of a good narrative lies only in transporting us to alternative realities. They are not a distraction from life but a vehicle through which we can explore the essence of life. My sister and I loved those stories because they were exciting, but we also grew up believing that as women, adventure, risk, victory and defeat would be a part of our journey.
For me, words became the fabric with which I wanted to weave something meaningful and inspiring. I love listening to stories, whether it is a beautifully crafted work of fiction or the life story of a Sainsbury’s checkout girl. Storytelling is how we communicate with one another and because everyone’s story is unique, there is an endless variety in the narratives.
As a mother of three, my children have been raised on Ready Brek and stories. None of them cared much for comforters in the form of soft toys or special blankets but they reach for a story when emotions run high. They have, in turn, become storytellers. I will learn more about their struggles from giving ear to a story than I will from direct questioning.
We are not unlike children in this respect. The stories we tell, tell us. They communicate our hope, disappointment and truth. You may not see yourself as a storyteller, however, we all use narrative structures to communicate. What did you do over the weekend? How is your mother? Is your job going well? Did you have a nice Christmas? These are all questions that will potentially illicit a story.
Our challenge is to tell stories with heart. The word courage has its root in the Latin word ‘cor’ which means heart. In Middle English, the word courage was used broadly to talk about what was in people’s thoughts. One original definition of the word is: ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart’. Storytelling is an act of courage.
If we want to tell stories that resonate with other people, it will require bravery. I am referring to everything from the response to ‘How is your mother?’ to the bedtime stories we craft for our children.
It is National Storytelling Week this week. This is not just for people who have a passion for the written word. This is an opportunity for us all to consider putting a bit more heart into our stories. Are we courageously communicating who we are and the unique narrative that shapes our lives? Or are we hiding in a story that someone else wrote for us? Take some time this week to read, listen or tell a good story. Here are some excellent resources for storytelling:
The Society for Storytelling: https://www.sfs.org.uk/
The Moth: https://themoth.org/
Bethany Dawson is the Fragrance Writer at STORIES Parfums. She is also the author of My Father’s House and works as a Story Crafter and Copywriter. She lives on a smallholding in Northern Ireland with her husband, three children, a herd of pigs, some chickens and a vegetable garden in progress.