The history of storytelling is a long and storied one. In fact, it’s so old that nobody can even say for sure where or when it started. We have found cave paintings from as far back as 28,000 BC, showing a reindeer being attacked by two cave lions. We also know that since the first writing system – cuneiform – was invented around 3100 BC, there has been plenty written about stories too.
The Oldest Story
The oldest story that we have been able to decipher from those ancient times was Gilgamesh – a tale about an ancient Mesopotamian king who lived around 2700 BC. This narrative construction felt familiar to us because of its structure: beginning with an action-packed adventure (involving a giant bull), followed by a character’s development over the course of his quest, and culminating in a climax where he is finally able to complete the adventure. The narrative construction used here was a simple yet effective one – a beginning, middle and end, with an emphasis on the hero’s journey from a regular person to someone capable of great things.
In other words: storytelling has been around as long as we have been human beings. As far as we can tell, it first started out as an oral tradition where people would gather around fires at night time to listen to epic tales about heroes going on grand adventures. People were inspired by these stories and lived their lives accordingly. They aimed at being like those heroes – finding something they could be the best at and sharing their expertise with others. They wanted to tell their own stories too, but those were never as grand as those they had heard, so they settled with adding a little of themselves into those tales – specifically things that happened in their lives that seemed like something out of a larger than life story. This is how the first memoirs came about: people were inspired by what they had already been told and decided to share some of their personal stories instead – but these remained anecdotes, true both in form and content, but not epic enough for them to be considered real stories.
As time went on and writing systems started springing up like mushrooms all over the world, people started documenting these narratives more systematically – no longer just in naturalistic cave paintings but also in scrolls and stones. The narratives started getting more complex, too, because people weren’t just telling stories anymore – they were writing them down and sharing them with each other (this is known as the oral tradition dying out). This meant that authors could now add to their tales over time without having to rely on memory alone, meaning that stories became longer and more complicated by orders of magnitude. These days we have books like The Lord Of The Rings and Game Of Thrones – epics that take up several volumes and which still haven’t finished after centuries of instalments.
As you can see: storytelling has gone through many iterations since its humble beginnings in ancient times. It started off as an oral tradition of simple anecdotes but quickly evolved into more complex forms with the advent of writing. After that, it went on to become more and more complicated over time – both in terms of narratives themselves as well as how they are told. We have had many different iterations of storytelling techniques since then, but the fundamentals remain largely unchanged: a beginning, middle and end, which can be combined together to form an overarching narrative structure.
However, while the basics haven’t changed, there has been an evolution in what we consider a story and how we tell them: this is due to society changing over time and new technologies taking hold in the form of new entertainment mediums.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
The novel as we know it didn’t come about until the 18th century when writers like Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding started experimenting with the form. They were some of the first authors to tell stories in a way that was completely different from anything that had been done before – and their work soon caught on with the masses. The novel became extremely popular because it was a new form of entertainment that people could relate to: it was no longer just the domain of the wealthy and privileged but could be enjoyed by anyone who could read. This led to a proliferation in novels across all genres, and eventually to movies, TV shows and other forms of entertainment being based on them.
Movies are a relatively new form of storytelling that took hold in the 1920s. They were an instant hit because they allowed people to experience stories in a completely new way – through sight and sound, as opposed to just text. This led to the development of Hollywood, where movies became a mainstay in popular culture. Nowadays, movies are a multi-billion dollar industry and continue to be one of the most popular forms of entertainment around the world.
TV shows are another relatively recent form of storytelling and arguably played a bigger role than movies in shaping popular culture as we know it. They first came about in the 1940s but didn’t really take off until the 1950s shows like I Love Lucy started airing. TV shows have been a major part of popular culture ever since and have been responsible for some of the most-watched programs of all time – with many series on air decades after they first started airing.
And finally, we come to video games: a relatively new form of entertainment that has taken hold in the last few decades. Video games first came about in the 1970s but only really took off as a mainstream product in recent times with the advent of titles like Super Mario Bros., Doom and Final Fantasy VII – as well as consoles like Playstation and Xbox, which made them accessible to more people than ever before. Video games are now one of the biggest forms of entertainment around – with blockbuster titles regularly beating Hollywood movies in terms of revenue.
Sports are another form of entertainment and one that is relatively recent in the grand scheme of history. They only became popular after the Industrial Revolution when people started to get paid for doing them, which led to the creation of leagues and teams. This development led to an explosion in sports stories, becoming one of the most popular forms of entertainment around – with some sports gaining global followings that rival even the most-watched TV shows. This new type of storytelling is unpredictable and immersive; just take a look at fans using bet365 to see if they can accurately ‘predict how it will end!’.
The Future Of Storytelling
As you can see: storytelling has come a long way since its humble beginnings as an oral tradition, but it still remains fundamentally unchanged in what it’s all about: telling stories. However, while the basics may be largely unchanged, there has been an evolution in how they are delivered: with new technologies like books, movies and TV shows taking hold.
This trend is only going to continue in the future as new technologies emerge and take hold. For example, virtual reality has the potential to become a major storytelling medium in the future, as it allows people to experience stories in a completely immersive way. This could lead to whole new genres of VR storytelling being created, which would be something totally different from anything that’s been done before.
The common denominator in all these different forms is that they are linear: it’s the same story told over and over again, with no real variation. But what if there was another way to tell stories? What if you could take these well-worn ideas and combine them together – creating something truly unique?
Well, that’s exactly what VR aims to do! Virtual Reality will be taking a look at some of the most popular stories out there today but also subverting your expectations by playing around with their structure. More often than not, the latter will turn into its own form of storytelling which you can play around with yourself! For example, let’s take a closer look at the popular TV series Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones is based on the book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. It is a story that is full of violence, intrigue and political machinations – and it has been a huge hit with audiences since it first aired in 2011. But what if we told you that you could also use it as the basis for a murder mystery?
All you need to do is take the basic plot points of the show: there’s a king who’s been murdered, his son is crowned king, and he needs to find out who killed his father. From there, it’s easy to come up with your own characters and plotlines – all you need to do is replace the main characters with suspects and then reveal whodunit at the end of the story! There are no limits to what you can do with an idea like that – so why not go ahead and try it yourself?
So what happens in the next Chapter?
The history of storytelling is one of constant evolution, as new technologies take hold and allow for new ways of telling stories. The basics may remain largely unchanged, but the way they are delivered will continue to change over time!
* Collaboration with FATJOE Publishing.
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