Peggy Bechko: Storytelling for Fun, Profit & More

by Peggy Bechko

With the holidays coming I’m thinking more in terms of curiosity and wonder than instruction. So I thought I’d write a bit about storytelling – it’s origins – what it all means. Uh, oh, I don’t think I’ll get philosophical, but well, you never know.

Storytelling comes in many forms. The written word (you know novels, articles, ‘fake’ news, short stories, all that) pictures (paintings, movies, photos, drawings, etc.) music, religion…they all tell stories.

But there is a beginning to it all. And in my view it’s a bit of a circle. We kinda went from pictures on the walls and grunts to printed books via the printing press and now back to pictures on the walls (movies) and grunts!

Truly it seems remarkable to me.

Nobody really knows who told the first story and when. After all, there was no one who could record the event so the mists of time have swallowed it up like it has so many things.

My personal opinion is that it probably started when a bunch of cave people were huddled around a fire inside a cave after an unsuccessful hunt and the guys were spinning stories within earshot of the women to explain away the absence of a mammoth for the pot.

Or maybe Ugh got himself bored by a tusk of something and somebody spun a tale about how brave he’d been, how close he’d gotten in his determination to fell the beast.

So they told stories – you know, just verbally. After all, they couldn’t write. But then along came the talented one who could create pictures of sorts on walls.

Ha! Now that’s storytelling! Think about the Lascaux Caves in southern France. The painting found in the cave go back to a time between 15,000 and 13,000 BC. Human and animals are represented and the pictures tell a story of hunting. Cool!

Okay, so here we are, a big-brained animal with this kind of scrawny body, especially compared to the large animals us skinny little folk want to bring down. Not to mention the big predators were pretty determined to get us. Survival was a great idea so people continued to work together and tell stories.

And I’ve discovered that stories were originally the key to our survival. Stories were intrinsic to how people formed tribes, and evolutionary biologist say stories and our ability to tell stories developed about the same time as grunts began to turn into words.

Before man began writing memory was all he had so he better be a good listener and keep things fairly straight in his retelling.

So who were the storytellers? People like priests, shamans, revered warriors, anyone who could pass along information in their stories that benefited the listener. Remember Gilgamesh? Written down now, but at first a story passed from the lips of one to the ears of others.

And, can you guess the earliest known record as to the origins of storytelling (besides cave paintings I mean)? It was the sons of Egyptian king Cheops who entertained their father with stories.

Myths, legends, fairy tales, the hero’s journey and epic adventures. All stories told and retold, then making their way to the printed page, they passed on wisdom and knowledge from early people, from one generation to the next. It appears humans are the only animals that create and tell stories, at least for now.

How we tell stories has changed drastically from the beginning. We’ve gone from cave painting to Shakespeare’s plays to novels and now to movies and YouTube clips. Today, people want stories because stories allow the reader or the moviegoer to sympathize with and relate to characters. To experience things outside of their everyday life. To imagine new worlds.

It’s amazing how the deeply ingrained desire to tell and absorb stories continues today and grows stronger, continuing its powerful impact on the way we live and how we see life.

So, who’s the storyteller now? You?

Time to get busy and write. Show us life. Give us hope.

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.