The creation of a story

On Saturday, I spent the day in Dunblane, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre Storytelling Development Day. There was a packed and thought-provoking programme, with discussion of our relationship with the stories we tell, ways to approach work with funders, community projects, and schools as storytellers,  and the relationship between oral tradition and literacy.

I was put in mind several times during these conversations of a story I created and told last autumn, as part of a partnership between the Dig It! 2015 project of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries, The Surgeons' Hall Museums, and myself as an apprentice of the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

The story was created to highlight tattoos at the Surgeons' Hall Museums, mortuary art at Greyfriars Kirkyard, and also included a cursing bone from the National Museum of Scotland (shown below).

cursing bone - National Museum of Scotland
Cursing bone - National Museum of Scotland

I started with the tattoos: from a 19th century sailor, and an army deserter (which you can see here and here -- behind links in case you're squeamish!). I researched these tattoos' background, the place of tattoos within the British navy at that time, and came across a particularly striking (and gruesome) story about tattoos and the spread of syphilis.

This gave me the germ of the story, which I then developed to connect it with the cursing bone and the graveyard. Eventually, the story took my protagonist, Jack, from Scotland to Portsmouth, from South America to Japan, and back again.

It was a very interesting process: very different from telling a traditional tale. Not only was I creating a story from scratch, but also in partnership with the needs and requirements of partner organisations, who wished to highlight certain elements of their work. It was much more akin to my previous work in social research and community development.

I share a little bit about the process with Joshua Graham below:

If you'd like to hear the story itself, sign up to become a patron, from only $1 USD per month.

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