The Storyteller

I have been thinking a lot this past week about how methods of storytelling can be applied to research. After all, when disseminating research, we are essentially telling a story to our audience about our work and how it fits into, or has an effect upon, society.

A storyteller I have always greatly admired is Alan Garner, an author that my Dad first introduced me to through his novels The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath. Recently, my Mum lent me a book that he compiled of all his essays and musings over the years, many of which are centered around why and how he tells his stories. The Voice that Thunders provides an insight into Alan Garner’s writing and thinking processes, many of which focus on the methods he uses to connect with his audience.

The chapter I am currently reading, Achilles in Altjira, opens with several remarks that I think provide some clear guidance on communication of a piece of work. When reminiscing about his school days at Manchester Grammar School, he talks about how remarkable the school was in its approach of ‘fitting the school to the boy, rather than making the boy conform to the school.’ He explains that, to allow something t flourish, it must be given the right environment, which is certainly true for communication. If we are trying to connect with a certain audience in order to communicate our research, then we have to make sure the setting for that communication is fit for purpose; if we want our research to flourish, the way that it is communicated must be tailored for our audience.

As he moves on to discuss how his school years informed his writing processes, he explains how a writer has to answer two key questions before they can write:

  • What is the story?
  • What words can tell it?

Taking this in the context of my research, I believe that to successfully communicate our research, we first need to know what our key messages are, and then decide which tools or platforms are best suited to convey these messages to our audience. As the number and range of communication tools is constantly growing, it is important that we can identify the right ones for each audience to maximize our chances of impact.