The writing’s on the wall: From cave paintings to YouTube Mobile Live

It’s standard practice to show not tell in fiction -to sharpen your writing and, more significantly, shrink the gulf between reader and story. Your character does or says something, however brief -perhaps he/she whispers, gulps, blinks. This cuts boring words and, more usefully, shortcuts you to speech, sounds and actions that signal something human to the reader/s about the character, his/her mood or attributes, etc. So why is it still called storytelling?

I guess storyshowing just doesn’t have the same ring, right? And, I’m no paleo-anthropologist but, perhaps, historical terms with common present day use (like ‘storytelling’) are just in our blood. I’ve no proof yet the origins of storytelling surely lay in our pre-writing past of spoken word stories in trees and caves and savannas and beyond…

That’s another story. Right now we could be on the verge of a boom time for spoken word storytelling. YouTube are currently drip-feeding their “mobile live” counter to Periscope and other platforms. This developing story may not be of immediate interest to many writers, yet there are many reasons to keep an eye (metaphorically and literally) on YouTube and other platforms…

YouTube rinses our time yet it’s sometimes educational and/or amusing. The scale of it, the sheer volume of eyeballs (second only to Facebook), the chance of (better than Facebook) interaction with fellow humans in this post-audience age, and the potential ranking gains made through watch time, all start to stack up. Then there’s you.

The you of YouTube does not require you to embody a brand or, worse, start to vlog and yell about yourself in the third person (unless this is some kind of ploy to get inside the head of one of your characters who speaks in this self-aggrandizing way). It’s more simple.

Adding personal touches, humanizing some of your public output, makes sense for engagement. How you go about that, how often, and on what platforms (not just YouTube) are all up to you. For example, on this blog I recently signposted to a resurrected Instagram account (so far free from selfies). Meanwhile, 99% of my video activity remains offline, unlisted.

For several years I’ve been breaking up the eyes-down process of draft/re-write/edit with eyes-wide deep dives into all kinds of digital storytelling experiments. Point being, these are not flights of fancy. For me it’s due diligence, for a storyteller, in the digital age.

Yet, a peculiar sensation…

A nagging sense…

A shimmer of doubt…

Despite the diverse, ever growing, support of digital storytelling tactics, perhaps writing always pales next to visually-oriented storytelling that can play out on our retinas, in the blink of an eye…

© REUTERS/Regis Duvignau. One picture (from a series of 10) that could easily tell a thousand words. | Click the image for the slideshow: a quality example of photography’s storytelling prowess

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