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What Is The Best Medium For Storytelling?

Storytelling is the most ancient of the human art forms and dates back to the birth of language. Sure the stories may not have been as fascinating as Star Wars but “Food, there” and “I want mate you” still technically tell a tale. As we evolved and worked out easier ways to find food and to have sex, even managing to do both at once by playing Tinder in a McDonald’s, we discovered that imagination combined with language and imagery can be very powerful. So instead of asking questions like, “What’s the best movie of all time” or “Who’s the greatest novelist ever?”; today I plan on trying to figure out which medium is the best to tell your story.

Audio

Alright let’s make this quick because we’ve got to get the obvious lame duck out of the way first. As far a radio goes, there isn’t much of a demand for scripted dramas or comedies outside of the UK. Even podcasts tend to be more geared towards anecdotes between funny people or informative discussions which are stories granted, but in the grand scheme of things, Hamish’s best fart joke is not going to stand a chance when you put it up against the likes of The Shawshank Redemption or To Kill A Mockingbird.

The best contender for storytelling in the audio medium is music. Songs will always have the advantage of being able to enhance the telling of a story with their haunting or uplifting melodies. Songs like “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush and “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath are testaments to that fact and I still maintain that the story behind “Iron Man” is better than any of the current Iron Man films (sorry Marvel). Still, music does have its weakness and things like the limitations of length and the fact that if you were to read the lyrics on their own they would generally sound like nonsense means that music can’t really be decided as the best medium to tell a story.

Gaming

Now this is Novastream so of course gaming is going to be included as one of the contenders. Don’t be fooled though, this is not me pandering to my audience; gaming can be very effective when it comes to storytelling. The thing that gaming will always have over any other medium is the sense of inclusion. When people play games they don’t say things like “Damn, that guy killed Snake”, it tends to be more, “Damn, that guy killed ME”. It’s an experience that you share with the main characters, so when your character is put in a difficult situation and is forced to do something that you don’t want to do, this can be much more affective in terms of storytelling.

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Unfortunately video games haven’t had the best track record when it comes to storytelling but luckily for us things have been turning around recently. Games like The Walking Dead, Bioshock and Portal have been putting as much effort into the storytelling as the gameplay. Hopefully this is not a just trend and games continue to work on their stories because finishing a game like The Last Of Us is not an experience you are likely to forget anytime soon.

Film

In the age of home cinemas and Netfilx it’s a wonder that the old-timey tradition of heading to the pictures hasn’t died out. Although is it really a wonder? Cinema gets people talking more than any other medium. There are whole channels dedicated to the latest gossip around Hollywood and for some reason the people that act in these films. Not only that but film can span multiple generations. Ask you Grandma what Avicii’s latest song is and she probably couldn’t tell you as much as you could tell here about the policies of Ben Chifley. Although if you were to ask her about Titanic, you’d probably be able to have a good old chin wag about how there was heaps of room on that door for both Rose AND Jack.

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Having said all that, films are not perfect. Often money can get in the way of plot and sequels rarely live up to their previous counterparts. There is also a lack of character development, no matter how good a film’s script is, two and half hours is not enough time to fully flesh out a character. Before you argue, any superhero movie you watch is cheating because they will always have years and years of comic books to refer back to where as original screenplays have to work out how to introduce their characters before they can even think about a plotline.

Novels

Disregarding paintings (because how much of a story can art really tell? A thousand words, that’s how much), writing is one of the oldest methods of recording knowledge and sharing stories. Aside from the notion of time and language itself I would say the written word is the greatest of humankinds many inventions. Even better than sliced bread and the wheel because a wheel can only get you so far, imagination is endless. As for sliced bread well, it will eventually turn to s**t, stories rarely turn to s**t unless you are reading Fifty Shades Of Grey or Thomas Crapper’s autobiography.

So what do novels hold over all the other mediums? Imagination. Now I’m not talking about the author’s imagination here, I’m talking about the readers. Why? Well stop asking so many questions and I will tell you. When you read a novel, you are the one in control. You are the casting director, the set design, the costume designer and the director all rolled into one. Sure, the author gives you hints and tips along the way about how things are playing out but when it comes down to it, you have final say. Just look at how many people thought it was pronounced, “Her-me-own-ee” before the films came out and for some of those people, it still is. Talking of films, as you probably well know, the book was better.

Television

Dog is man’s best friend. I’m going to hazard a guess that whoever came up with that quote was probably a single person without a TV. A crazy dog man/lady, maybe. Television can be extremely comforting, especially since the inventions of DVDs and Netfix. Get a bunch of snacks ready like you are preparing for a harsh winter, curl up on the couch and binge to your heart’s content (well at least until work gets in the way, stupid work).

While film can only push it’s run time to two and half hours (twelve if it’s a Peter Jackson film), TV can keep pumping out an hour’s worth of entertainment indefinitely or at least until they run out of money. This allows the viewer to grow fonder for the characters and learn more about them like they would a real person, a friend even. This also allows for much more extensive plotlines and Easter egg opportunities (which I know are extremely important to the story but who doesn’t like a good nod to Series 1?). Unfortunately TV show’s longevities are always hanging in the balance and ratings can cut a TV mid-season, which can be terrible in terms of closure.

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Now don’t worry, I know haven’t singled out a medium as the best form for storytelling yet, I will soon (this ain’t no click-bate bulls**t). I just thought it was important to lay everyone’s cards on the table to see if it would help sway your decision. Since no matter what I say, your opinion is still your opinion. See where I’m going? No? Ok then, it’s novels. Control is everything and when you have control it is so easy to get lost in the story you are reading. There is something special about imagination that no one will ever be able to define but that’s alright because we can read about people trying to explain it all in a book. Thanks for READING this and let us know what you think is the best medium for storytelling in the comments.

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