About a year ago, I gave into the geekiest of geeky daydreams, becoming the Dungeon Master of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign with my friends. I know, I know - you’re already cringing. Why am I writing about my weekly nerd-session of pretending to be fantasy characters and rolling dice? Well, because as the leader of the session, I’ve had to learn quite a bit about the original form of storytelling: oral storytelling.
There’s been a huge surge in types and forms of oral storytelling over recent years, but I just wanted to bring up a few. Games like Dungeons & Dragons (Tabletop Role-Playing Games is the categorical titles) requires its players to form the story as their playing, partially assisted by some props around the table, but mostly through a collaborative engagement with the imaginary. As the Game Master, it’s my job to bring my players into a space that exists in my head and allow them to navigate the world and people in it as seamlessly as possible. This is a challenge enough when you’re writing, and you have time to put tape on the holes and put up some lights in the dark hallways for the reader, but I’ve found it incredibly difficult and revealing to have to give complicated details on setting and occurrences while speaking. However, as a result, I am now better able to come back to my writing and elaborate more precisely on the details of written spaces, and I understand real dialogue and interactions now, and I can see into parts of literature that I previously found relatively obscure.
Now, I’m not saying that to be a better writer, you necessarily have to role dice around some figurines for a few hours (although it’s crazy fun to do so), but I would recommend trying out oral storytelling of any form. Other examples? Podcasts and some YouTube videos fall into the category of oral storytelling, where the audience members have to interact just with the voices of other people and a few visual props if needed. It becomes a completely different experience to have to convey things out loud, and I would recommend it as a sort of taste that can build your improvisational and detail-oriented palates. It’s as simple as telling a ghost story or a really elaborate joke – but the form is different, and difference will teach you more about storytelling in general, no matter what your success may be.
Written by Erika S.
April is the cruelest month, breeding/ Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/ Memory and desire, stirring/ Dull roots with spring rain.
-T. S. Eliot
R2: The Rice Review
Rice University's undergraduate literary magazine. Here you can find event updates, monthly writing contest winners, and opinions by the R2 staff on what's new, interesting, or subject to discussion in the literary and arts world.