Timeless Traditions, Modern Day Legends
The leaves are changing. The air is getting crisper. The sun is setting sooner. Some would say ‘tis the season for pumpkin spice and spooky stories. And, while some seasonal traditions (like the ubiquitous PSL) are newer to our vernacular, others (like swapping stories by the fire) have been around for centuries.
What is it about a well-told story that keeps you thinking and talking? Is it the narrative? The characters? The way it just feels so real? The fact of the matter is, even with all of the technical pieces in place, a story is only as good as its delivery.
Famed American storyteller Washington Irving was a master at delivery, and had a knack for painting complex pictures with his words. Take these two quotes from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which drew inspiration from old Dutch settler folklore, for example:
“From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by name of Sleepy Hollow ... A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere.”
"It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet."
Reading Irving’s legend drops us completely into another world. Despite the frightening and supernatural elements of the story, we find that we’ve entered a strangely relatable world, a fully believable world. The pictures are so clear and the actions so real that we can’t help but feel as though we’re experiencing this world along with the townspeople. Because of the way it’s told, the story is truly timeless.
The vehicles for storytelling have evolved since Irving’s time. Nowadays, we don’t solely rely on orators by the fire or piles of paperbacks for stories -- we also turn to digital platforms, blogs, podcasts, Instagrams, to help us experience new worlds.
Regardless of platform, the stories we tend to enjoy are those that offer context and are delivered in a compelling way. Consider the comments section of a blog post the digital equivalent of a conversation ‘round the campfire. Readers share an experience, and may want to talk to others about that shared experience. Next time you feel the urge to comment or share, think about the reasons why you feel that urge. Think about how you felt towards the content. Think about how that content was delivered.