Direction in stories

Question: “How do I get to my destination?”

Irish answer: “Well, I wouldn’t start from here!”

I give the example of a set of directions I was once given. They were very precise: “turn left at the second junction, proceed to next roundabout and take second exit, take next road on right, proceed to next roundabout take third exit, etc, etc.etc.”

These directions (apart from being hard to read while driving) depended crucially on my starting from one fixed point. If I started anywhere else they would make no sense. What I quickly realised that what I was doing was following the signposts to Toome. If the instruction had been “get to Toome” I could have got there from any starting point. Only when I got close to the destination, close to the heart of the story, did I need more detailed information. Ideally some accessible landmark which will tell me I’m on the right track.

Likewise a story does not need to precisely direct people through the parts of the journey they can work out for themselves. Equally the story should be accessible to people whatever their starting point.

This is how I would approach universal storytelling, however in the case of a community story, there are shared points of reference within the community, cultural landmarks that will be recognised. Landmarks which allow people to orient themselves. Recognition and discussion of these common themes are integral to the process of developing a community’s narrative.


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