Telling stories is actually something we all do every single day, and it’s something that most people are good at without even trying! Every time we seek to hold someone’s attention, or help them to remember something, or amuse them with a funny account of our day, we choose lively and descriptive language to have an impact.
The novelist E.M. Forster had an interesting definition of what makes a story. For him, it was the difference between these two statements:
‘The king died and then the queen died’
‘The king died and then the queen died of grief’.
Do you agree?
A good story makes you think
When one of the warders at Kensington Palace was asked why she likes Queen Victoria, she gave a surprising answer. ‘She wasn’t always a grumpy old widow in black, as people assume’, the warder said. ‘She was the first monarch to have her voice recorded, and the first to give birth with the help of chloroform. She was a modern woman’.
History’s grey areas
This story came from one of our curators, who was showing round a group of visitors: ‘I mentioned that my favourite king is Charles I. There was outcry. “How can you like him?” cried one extremely cross lady. “He was a selfish, short-sighted, silly short-arse! He was against democracy, he caused needless suffering for thousands in the Civil War, and he deserved to have his head chopped off!” I said that she was right, but that I prefer to think of him as “wrong but romantic”. In my opinion, he was also noble, sensitive and principled, and found himself thrust into a job he wasn’t cut out to do. The more you learn more about a subject, the more black and white dissolves into all kinds of subtle shades of grey.’